Flames Trade Targets: Rick Nash and Jeff Carter

 

 

When Jay Feaster approached Brad Richards in the off-season, he proved the Flames are not against a good whale hunt. Luckily for the team Richards rejected their overtures and spared them a future boat anchor contract. With the Blue Jackets apparently blowing it up at the deadline, though, there are more potential whales and boat anchors to be had.

Calgarys short-term and long-term goals are somewhat contradictory. With five supporting players on the sidelines and the Iginla line shooting lights out, the obvious short-term demand is for depth to get the Flames over the injury hump. Long-term, however, the Flames should be looking to augment and improve their core forwards. As we’ve stated multiple times on this site, Calgary’s greatest deficit is in terms of younger, elite level forwards. The current group including Tanguay and Iginla are on the wrong side of thirty and no longer drive possession.

So not only are Iginla et al closer to their expiration date, they are already a tier below the truly great forwards in the league. This is the primary reason the Flames are perpetually mired in the middle of the Western Conference.

The other issue afflicting the team is it’s lack of core replacements for when a guy like Iginla rides into the sunset. The captain turns 35 years old this summer and while the organization has a some quality supporting players here and there (Glencross for example) there is a vast gulf between 30-somethings like Tanguay, Jokinen and Jarome and the second wave of the roster who would be expected to take the torch from failing hands.

Mikael Backlund is 22-years old and even with his recent struggles is the best of that age class on the club. Recent additions Blake Comeau and Blair Jones are in the mid-20’s, but may not persist past this year and anyways aren’t much more than bottom six options. Guys like Reinhart and Baertschi are intriguing but unknown commodities at the NHL level and are likely 3+ years away from being true impact players even if we assume the best case scenario.

The big gap is the 24-29 age group up front. Calgary’s inability to yield a single top-six quality talent from the draft over the last decade or so has left the team in the position of trying to perpetually build around Iginla – when in fact they should be moving him into a position to mentor and support the club’s next generation of big guns. Imagine, for example, if the Vancouver Canucks didn’t have Kesler and the Sedins to take over from Naslund, Bertuzzi and Morrison when the "West Coast Express" inevitably faltered. That’s essentially what the Flames are facing now.

One of Jeff Carter and/or Rick Nash would obviously go along way to filling the Flames need for a high-end, 20-something forward. It’s rare that such players are made available, rarer still that they aren’t merely "rentals" at the deadline peddled by a squad who can’t hope to re-sign them. Both Carter and Nash could check a major organizational box in their acquisition. But both come with significant risks as well.

Jeff Carter Issues

Carter has battled injury problems this year, but that’s not the primary concern with the erstwhile Flyer. A player who has scored 30+ goals in the previous three seasons while facing other top-six talent, his arrival in Columbus was meant to provide Nash with that "#1 center" he has always needed and finally get the club out of the Western Conference basement.

Instead, Carter was famously distraught with the deal. No one would remember his post-deal hiatus in the summer, of course, except the team’s fortunes went south with his arrival. The combination of Nash and Carter hasn’t resulted in better output for either player either. The latter is now dogged by questions about his motivation and character, with many fans (and perhaps GM’s) wondering if he would rebuff their team in similar fashion should he be dealt again.

On top of all that is a cap hit of $5.273/year which extends until 2020. Carter will be 34 years old when the deal expires, so not outrageously old, but 5+ year contracts always come with cumulative risk that builds up with every additional year. The cap hit is decent for a player of Carter’s ilk, but the contract in it’s totality is unsavory.

Rick Nash Issues

Rich Nash’s contract is probably even worse than Carter’s. Nash is 28, signed until 2018, makes $7.8 million per year and has a NMC to boot. Nash is the 5th highest paid player in the NHL, but it’s an open question whether he’s worth that sort of commitment.

Although the Blue Jackets captain has been a capable sniper since he broke into the league, he has never taken the next step into the truly elite category. Like Iginla these days, Nash plays against other good players, but he doesn’t drive the puck north with aplomb. This year, for example, his corsi is -0.64/60, even with a zone start of 53.8% – one of the easiest on the team. Carter isn’t much better with Columbus, but he has a history of driving play to a greater degree. Nash, in contrast, has been mediocre in terms of possession for at least three years now.

Truly great players in the NHL both outshoot and outscore the bad guys. Nash is paid like a difference maker, but he’s more like a high-end support winger: he needs someone else on his line or on the team to move the puck north. Aside from goaltending, this is one of the reasons the Blue Jackets haven’t been able to rise above the fray in the west – they’re building around a guy who isn’t really a heavy lifter.

Calgary’s Catch-22

Beyond the risks inherent to Carter and Nash as players, there’s also the question of cost of acquisition. The essential contradiction faced by bad teams is they often don’t boast the sort of expendable assets it takes to acquire the sort of players that would help them improve. The catch-22 is that in order to move up the ladder, middling or worse teams need to retain their notable assets while acquiring new, valuable players. It usually takes one to get the other on the trade market though.

In the Flames case, even if they determine that Carter or Nash are of interest despite some red flags, it may cost the organization more than it can reasonably bear to land either guy. First round picks, high-end prospects (Baertschi or, uh…Baertschi) and a worthwhile roster player are the likely starting points for negotiation.

So even though Carter and perhaps Nash to a lesser degree would fill a great, big hole on the roster, it’s probable their acquisition would create fresh ones all over the place, depending on the BJ’s demands. As such, the only way it makes sense to snag either of them is if they don’t cost key pieces to acquire. Unfortunately, the Flames don’t have a lot of non-key players or futures that are valuable enough to dangle.

Were I Jay Feaster, I would inquire about Jeff Carter. As mentioned, guys like him don’t come along very often and I’m guessing Carter’s stock won’t be this low again for a long time. That said, I’d be completely prepared to hang up on Howson without regret.

  • wawful

    Nash is simply beyond the Flames buying power. If he goes before the trade deadline, and that is a very big if, it will be for a ridiculous amount. Also, I don’t imagine that Calgary is on Nash’s short-list of teams he’s willing to be traded to. Unlike Nash, Carter might actually be obtainable for the Flames.

    Carter is a pretty big roll of the dice. He’s battled injuries, had a big drop in performance this season, has a terrible contract, and is a questionable locker-room presence to boot. He’s simply not a proven quantity right now, but the good news is that his price should reflect that. If Feaster can manage to land Carter without giving up Baertschi, Backlund (since he’s probably undervalued right now) or more than one first rounder I’d consider that a win.

  • Arik

    Carter’s deal is stupid and there are issues, but Calgary can’t continue to keep sitting in the middle. They’re on a big point streak right now, but it’s almost entirely due to the Kipper show. Even Feaster has acknowledged this.

    I like Roy and at 2 years there’s little risk, but will he be a differnce-maker here?

    No one hates seeing prospects or first rounders traded more than I do, but will Baertschi be able to carry the Flames in 3 years? I highly doubt it.

    Carter may well blow up in the team’s face, but at this point (once past the 1st round since ’89, 2 years no playoffs, likely to miss again or be hammered in 4 straight)it seems better to just say the hell with it and roll the dice. We can’t just sit in the middle until we fall off the cliff in 2 years.

    At this point, I don’t see any other viable option than a rebuild, which the team won’t do this season or next.

    So no, I’m not sold on Carter by any stretch, but if he matures ala Jason Spezza we have a #1 center and a lot better chance at doing some damage in the playoffs. If not, eh, at least we tried.

    • RexLibris

      and @ SmellofVictory

      I don’t think Feaster is going to stand pat. And looking at the man-games lost, I think he and ownership are going to say that they can improve and vault themselves into the upper tier of the league by acquiring Carter.

      I imagine the argument will be along the lines of Carter previously having success in Philadelphia and being a consistent scorer like Iginla as well as a younger talent upon which the mantle of the franchise can be laid.

      Here is a list of man-games lost, per team. Most managers looking at it would use it to augment their perspective of the relative standing of their roster.

      http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/globe-on-hockey/pens-habs-lead-nhl-in-man-games-lost-to-injury/article2342449/

      • RexLibris

        They may try it, but it’s a bad idea. Bad trade partners and a guy in Carter who, while of low value in terms of recent production, is still expensive to acquire given his age and history. Add to that the fact that Carter’s almost halfway through his peak years, if we go off the standard career arc of a scoring forward, and it just sounds like a recipe for disaster/mediocrity.

        He’s a solid player on a good contract, but the cost to acquire him is something that the Flames cannot afford, and it won’t benefit them long-term (it also likely won’t push them over the top short-term).

  • One big thing with Nash is that I don’t think he would actually come to Calgary. He has the NMC and we don’t appear to be on the list. Nash wants to win, and apparently the whole “don’t want to be in the spotlight” thing is BS. New York? San Jose? Los Angeles? Toronto? He wants to be in the spotlight, and he wants to be in a big, happening city.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    I agree with a lot of what has been said.

    Carter is a better target than Nash considering he would cost less (both in cap & assets given up), especially considering he drives posession better.

    I however don’t think you get stuck with the mentality of having him on Iginla’s line. If you put Iggy with Joker & GlenX then Carter can center Tanguay & Cammi. That way Carter’s shoot fist mentality could fit quite well with Tanguy’s playing-making ability & Iggy has GlenX & Joker to protect him defensively & from the invetiable top matchups he has to face.

  • T&A4Flames

    The more I think about this the more I think that the Flames should go after Carter but not Nash. Yea, Carter’s perceived attitude is a little scary and yea, he is a shoot 1st Centerman, but he is starting to hit an age where maturity may start to hit. The whirlwind of his last year may help with that as well. His age is certainly a fit as is his ability to get points.

    One thing, though. I would rather see him as a RW, which he has played a lot of. That would fit his ‘shoot first’ type of play.

    Iggy-Joker-Tangs
    Carter-Backs-Cammi
    Stemp-Jones/Horak-GlenX

    As a top 9….. I like how that looks. I would give up our 2013 1st rounder (not our 2012), but I’m not sure what else. Maybe taking back Mason for Karlsson would help (salary dump). Obviously still not enough, though.

  • Nash is a non deal from every angle that you look at it. From length of term, to cap hit, to his production. If the organization has learned nothing else from having Iginla its that you cannot win when your franchise player is a winger. You need to build through the middle and supplement in talent on the wings; does not work the other way (Washington should be coming to this realization as well). Nash has not put up the numbers that Iginla has, and fans of his use the same excuses that are provided to Iginla. The fact is that Nash might be a premier winger, but he is not a franchise player or a game breaker. He is overpaid, and is not a fit for the Flames.

    Carter would be a more attractive package if he brought the two women with him in the picture. At least having them behind the bench would give fans something to look at when the team is playing without emotion.

    I dont think that Carter is the answer for the Flames, and I think that it would be a mistake to trade for him. His history and cap hit are reasonable, but the length of term and the concerns regarding his character leave much to be desired. His production in Philadelphia came with Briere, Giroux, and Richards helping to aleviate the level of checking that he was subject to and the leadership of Pronger probably had a great deal to do in terms of scaring Carter into performing to his potential. I dont think that Carter ever comes close to matching the numbers that the put up in Philadelphia and I think that he would easily become the next Bourque in terms of fans expectations and rage.

    I think that there are a number of players available from teams if the Flames want to sell of the future to help Iginla in the present. I think that there are younger and cheaper players that can help fill second line scoring roles that will provide more benefit for the Flames than the high priced pair from Columbus could.

  • Probably best to take some of that oil money and just roll up to Carter’s house with a dumptruck full of cocaine and a semi full of beer. Was Philly really that much of a good place to party with his bro Richards? Columbus is definitely a downgrade in terms of party-ability for young people.

    Seriously though, I can only hope that Feaster doesn’t take some stupid pills and decide it’s a good idea to trade Baertschi, Cammy, and 8 or 9 first rounders for Carter.

    As you say Kent, Carter’s value probably won’t ever be this low, unless he gets really injured.

    One final thing to be concerned about is that Carter isn’t necessarily a pass-first center. He scored 30 goals because he was shooting, not feeding the puck to other players. Is this really what the Flames need? I would be okay with this, like when Cammalleri had his best season when Iginla was feeding him pucks.