Why the LA Kings should consider buying out Jeff Carter’s contract

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

One of the best trades in LA Kings history, the team should consider a buyout of Jeff Carter’s contract in the offseason. Here’s why.

Needing a goal scorer, the LA Kings acquired Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets in February 2012. Two Stanley Cups later, Carter’s impact during those championship runs cannot be measured. The Flyers locked Carter up to a ten-year contract extension worth a $5.3M AAV prior to his trade to Columbus and then LA, running through the 2021-2022 season.

At the time of the trade, combined with how well Carter was producing, that kind of money looked like a steal. The 36-year-old is four years removed from 32 goals and 66 points in the 16-17 season, but father time has caught up with Carter over the last several seasons. Injuries have also taken their toll.

Relatively speaking, Carter was on pace to have a strong 17-18 campaign, but he was limited to just 27 games due to a lacerated ankle tendon on a freak play against the boards. The 11th overall pick in 2003 returned the following season, but Carter’s production dropped off a cliff, tallying 13 goals and nine assists with a -20 rating in 76 games.

And he was limited to 60 games a year ago, requiring surgery to repair a core muscle injury.

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Carter, perhaps, benefited the most from the delayed start to the 2021 season, scoring the team’s first goal of the shortened campaign. Visually, Carter looked like a younger version of himself, flying around the ice like it was 2012 out there.

However, the goals have been few and far between, scoring just six goals through 33 games. He has ten assists as well, but at times, Carter has been invisible on the ice. He’s spent the bulk of this season playing with Andreas Athanasiou and Gabe Vilardi on the team’s second line. According to MoneyPuck, the trio has accounted for a 53.5 xGF% in just over 107 minutes time-on-ice.

From an individual perspective, Carter owns a 47.3 xGF%, aligning fairly close to his actual production of 45.2 GF%, broken down into 14 GF to 17 GA in even-strength play. For reference, and to convey the decline in play, Carter accounted for a 51.5 xGF% and an actual 53.6 GF% from the 14-15 season through the 17-18 season.

This year, Carter is shooting the puck at a career-low 6.1 percent, and it’s no surprise his 2021 even-strength statistics don’t look great.

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The LA Kings’ second line with Jeff Carter has accounted for a 55.6 GF%, broken down to 5 GF to 4 GA in even-strength play. Simply put, they aren’t scoring enough as shown by the 40th percentile of quality of teammates. Further, a lack of secondary scoring has been well-documented in this 56-game schedule.

He just hasn’t been a factor in games.

A perfect example. In Monday night’s game against the Golden Knights, Carter had a chance to bury a bouncing puck in front of Vegas netminder Robin Lehner, who had no clue where the puck was, but Carter failed to put it home. At the time, it would have given the Kings a 2-0 lead. Instead, they could only muster up one goal all night.

And at this point, the LA Kings should consider buying out his contract in the offseason.

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What a buyout would cost the LA Kings

General manager Rob Blake and the Kings front office can buyout Carter’s contract this offseason, but it would be wise to wait until after the Seattle expansion draft. Leave Carter exposed. Perhaps Seattle takes him, but likely not.

Here’s the breakdown of what a buyout looks like, per CapFriendly:

  • 2021-2022 season: $3.9M cap hit
  • 2022-2023 season: $667K cap hit

That’s it.

Given the Kings are carrying over $10M in retained salary in Dion Phaneuf’s buyout along with terminated contracts in Mike Richards and Ilya Kovalchuk, you can live with less than $4M in retained salary next year from Carter.

Did I mention Kovalchuk and Phaneuf’s contracts come off the books after this season as well?  Blake and the Kings would go from $10M+ in retained salary to just under $5M next season. It’s an easy decision and allows a roster spot to open up for one of the younger players.