LA Kings: Jeff Carter Flew “Under the Radar as a Leader”

Following Jeff Carter’s trade to Pittsburgh, Todd McLellan, Anze Kopitar, and Alex Iafallo all reflect on the impact the veteran had on the LA Kings.

To suggest that the annual trade deadline is a bittersweet day for NHL teams is quite an understatement. The LA Kings are no exception to this. On Monday, they have some good news, inking forward Alex Iafallo to a four-year extension (more on that later). On the flip side, though, the team parted ways with veteran Jeff Carter, sending the 36-year-old to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for two conditional draft picks.

Following practice on Monday, a few Kings had a chance to speak with the media about the news as well as an opportunity to fondly reflect on the impact that their now-former teammate had on the LA Kings organization.

While he is certainly thrilled to have his new extension signed, Alex Iafallo took some time to reflect on Carter and the impact he had on his growth as a player.

“Yeah, I mean, I got to know him right off the hop when I first got here when I was young,” the 27-year-old said of Carter. “And, you know, being an older guy, he always stepped in and told me what I need to work on, or small things like that, and he was always calming presence. So, you know, having him– send words to me and, and pump me up along the way. He’s done it to everybody, so he’s always been a great guy.”

For Todd McLellan, while he got to know Jeff Carter well over the past year-and-a-half, he was more familiar with the veteran center as an opponent when he served as head coach for the Edmonton Oilers briefly but more notably with the San Jose Sharks. Regardless of the situation, though, the Kings head coach always had a deep respect for Jeff Carter — a respect that will continue on.

“Obviously, a real, real important player for this organization,” McLellan noted of Carter. “A long, long time, a big part of championships and great memories.

“I think the younger ones appreciated him, his leadership, his ability to carry himself professionally around the rink. He cared about a lot of those younger players. But for them, it’s an opportunity and opens up ice more. It’s the older players that, probably, it stings a little bit more. There were some tears in some eyes today but [Carter is] going to get a real good opportunity, everybody’s happy for him. We’d like to see him make good on it, and enjoy another championship out east.”

As difficult as losing Jeff Carter was, though, McLellan acknowledges that the trade was a business move, first and foremost, which makes the combination of personal feelings tougher to digest.

“Nobody wanted to lose him,” the Kings’ bench boss said. “[But] the organization has to manage its assets with expansion coming up. The opportunity to, you know, to get pieces back for somebody that we had a real good chance of losing in the summer, I think that decision had to be made and it doesn’t make it easier for the players.”

Of all the members of the Kings family, though, few had known Carter longer, or better, than Anze Kopitar.

“I mean, I think about it throughout the nine years,” a forelorn Kopitar began. “He’s done just about everything that we asked from from him. We traded for him in ’12 to spark our scoring and he certainly with that. We went on that run. We obviously won a Stanley Cup that year and another one.”

While Carter was rarely looked at as an underrated talent, Kopitar certainly believes that his now-former teammate deserved more recognition than he received.

“I don’t think he gets enough credit or got enough credit for, you know, showing the way as a leader,” the Kings captain stressed. “You think about it, I mean, [Tanner Pearson] and [Tyler Toffoli], back in the day, they were on his wings and he took them– he took it pretty personally to get those guys going and groom them right and obviously did a great job. Like I said, I think he’s been flying under the radar as a leader. It’s a very sour taste to see him go but at the end of the day, you know, wish him luck and we’ll meet up again, probably in the summer.”

However anyone feels about the move, the trading of Jeff Carter marks a sad day for the LA Kings and their ever-loyal fanbase. After all, with No. 77 heading east, that is one less player remaining from the silver-and-black’s championship runs. On the flip side, though, the trade symbolizes a further shift for the Kings’ future, opening up a roster spot for the next player to prove his worth in Los Angeles.

In his 16 NHL seasons, Jeff Carter spent the vast majority as a member of the LA Kings — and it was a qualitative tenure, at that.

In 580 games for the Kings, Carter netted 194 goals and 189 assists for 383 points. Of course, for the former Soo Greyhound, his game elevated in the playoffs, scoring 53 points (26 goals, 27 assists) in 73 postseason contests.

For now, let us all wish Jeff Carter the absolute best in Pittsburgh but also sincerely thank him for his services to the LA Kings.

He deserves it, and thensome.