LA Kings: What a successful season looks like for Jeff Carter

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Jeff Carter is one of a handful of LA Kings’ players left from the Stanley Cup runs. He’s returning from surgery this year, but he can still have a big role.

Acquired as one of the missing pieces in 2012, Jeff Carter had an integral part in both of the LA Kings‘ Stanley Cup runs. He’s coming off three consecutive disappointing seasons, and two of three have been shortened due to injuries. The most recent forced Carter to have surgery on a core muscle in June.

The 35-year-old is expected to be fully recovered for the 2020-2021 season, and he’s perhaps one of many players who has benefited the most from next year’s schedule being pushed back. More time means more opportunity for recovery.

Carter still has two years left on his 11-year contract extension he signed (with the Flyers) in November 2010. He’ll come at a $5.2M cap hit and could potentially be left exposed for Seattle’s inaugural expansion draft.

For now, he’ll remain on the Kings’ roster.

He spent most of last season at center on the team’s second line but was also sprinkled around from left-wing on the second line to center on the fourth line. Between the last two seasons, Carter logged a combined 49.3 Corsi-for percentage and 48.6 expected-goals-for percentage.

The 2019-2020 season was actually much better in terms of expected-goals-for, but he still only found the back of the net 17 times-this coming from a guy who was still scoring 30+ goals three years ago.

What is Carter’s role next year?

On paper, Jeff Carter is likely to play at right wing on the LA Kings third line. His days at center are probably over, with the organization boasting immense depth up the middle.

He’ll provide support for Blake Lizotte as his centerman and whoever breaks camp on the left side. It’s a very small sample to go off, but the combination of Lizotte and Carter recorded a 59.7 expected-goals-for percentage in approximately 96 minutes of on-ice time last year.

Honestly, the best third line for the Kings might be the combination of Adrian Kempe to go along with Lizotte and Carter. Kempe and Lizotte logged a 57.8 expected-goals-for percentage in almost 370 minutes last season. Along with how well Lizotte and Carter played together, a mixture could be the best thing for all three players and the team, who struggled to finish.

What does a successful season look like?

Almost 36 and coming off surgery, Carter’s best days are behind him. Had he not been shut down early last year, there was a strong possibility that he’s a 20-goal scorer. The Kings, as a group, were an excellent puck-possession team in the 2019-2020 season. And Carter was a big reason for that, recording a 53.5 Corsi-for percentage.

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Playing on the third line, Carter can still have a big impact on the Kings’ younger players in terms of being a mentor while filling up the box score. We’ll have to see how many games the 2020-2021 season winds up being, but I don’t see any reason why Carter can’t be a 20-goal, 15-assist kind of player.

Anything less would be considered a disappointment in my book.