Will Jeff Carter be back with the LA Kings? What’s the deal with those previous reports of him allegedly saying he may retire if traded?
While guys like Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown, and Rob Blake spoke at length during Monday’s exit interviews, Jeff Carter opted for the quality over quantity option.
After taking a few questions regarding his training and production this season, we served up the elephant in the room – what about his future in LA and all of this retirement talk?
“I’m 20 games from 1,000, so I don’t think I’m retiring,” said the two-time Stanley Cup champion. “I have three years left on my contract. I want to be an LA King. I want to help change things around here, but I don’t have no-trade protection so whatever happens, happens.”
Then, just as we were about to move on, with a very serious facial expression and a near death stare back, Carter added, “And I never talked about retiring either. That never came out of my mouth.”
With that clarified, Blake later discussed what could be another option for the 34-year-old forward if he’s still part of the LA Kings roster come training camp.
“With Jeff, we have the availability to move him from center to winger. You have to have a better centerman there, first of all,” Blake explained. “Jeff Carter, we expect more out of him. Now, did I expect him to get back to 30 goals right away — coming off of that injury and being a year older, maybe that was too much of an expectation. But I think you saw a little more of Jeff near the end with Kyle Clifford and Trevor Lewis. That’s a pretty good line. They had something going, they felt comfortable in that, but there is an offseason here that I have to do a lot of work with these guys and understand what they want, and what I want, and see where we go from there.”
Even though some people on social media are often quick to want a definitive answer, there is no clear cut answer at the moment regarding Carter’s future in Los Angeles. Clearly his production was down this season. Some people try to blame the injury; saying he wasn’t fully recovered. It’s certainly possible. Yet, how do you explain what he was able to do when he returned to the lineup late last season after being on the shelf for several months? Carter scored 13 goals over the final 21 regular season games. That at least should justify a moment of pause, as you reconcile the injury as the primary culprit when attempting to explain his 13 goals in 76 games this season.
As we previously reported, the Kings explored trade options for Carter earlier this season. Despite not being able to find a proper suitor before the Trade Deadline, we expect those talks to pick back up again in the coming months.
Thus, him dismissing any retirement ideas should, in theory, help out on two fronts.
First, it potentially increases his trade value. After all, what team wants to give up assets just to have the player they acquire never suit up for them?
Second, it benefits LA because if Carter was to retire, the Kings would be stuck with salary cap penalties (i.e. recapture penalties) totaling $3.75 million in each of the next three years.
Additionally, the contract isn’t as terrible as often portrayed. Although it carries a nearly $5.3M cap hit per season. However, it’s only $3M in actual cash next season and then just $2M over the final two seasons. That’s roughly a 50% savings when you compare actual checks written to the player vs. the salary cap value assigned to the team.
A potential buyout is another option at the Kings disposal; Blake even acknowledged such during his media scrum yesterday. Again, though, that also comes with a cap penalty to the Kings – similar to what they currently have on the books for Matt Greene.
When a player is bought out, the penalties/cap adjustment take place over twice as many years remaining on the player’s contract. So, in this case, that would be six years total. Using the Cap Friendly calculator, a Carter buyout would actually save LA $1-2M in cap space for the first three seasons. Then, in the three outer years, they would be hit with a $777k penalty.
Considering the Kings are no longer up against the cap ceiling — a situation they faced for many years prior — it’s not the cap savings that would potentially motivate a buyout. It’s the $2.3M in actual cash they would save in buying him out this summer (this is calculated as $7M in total cash remaining on the deal vs. the $4.7M paid in a buyout).
There is one other scenario. If a trade isn’t reached with one of the other 30 NHL clubs and Blake opts not to buy him out, the Kings could put Carter on waivers. Why would they make such a move? Although they would not receive any assets back in return should he be claimed by another team, they would rid themselves of the contract without the buyout penalties. If a team did not claim him and he was assigned to the AHL, the Kings would still receive about $1M in NHL cap relief, even though they’d be on the hook for all of the actual cash he is still owed.
When all is said and done, could Carter return to LA next year? Anything is possible. We just don’t see it playing out that way.
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