Kings add Jeff Carter, send Jack Johnson to Columbus

What began earlier this week, continued late last night. Columbus sent underperforming forward Jeff Carter to Los Angeles eight months to the day that they had acquired him from Philadelphia. In exchange, Columbus adds defenseman Jack Johnson, who at 25 potentially becomes the next face of the Blue Jackets franchise. In addition, the Kings send the Blue Jackets their first round pick in either the 2012 or 2013 draft.

Carter however becomes the front man for the Kings woeful offense. On the season the Kings have averaged 2.05 goals per game and been effective on just 15.3% of their power play opportunities. Carter’s 15 goals tie him with Dustin Brown for second most on the roster. Carter however has missed 21 of the Blue Jackets 60 contests, while Brown has yet to miss a game for the Kings.

Equally stalwart in Los Angeles was Johnson. Though he had surrendered the number one defenseman role to Drew Doughty, Johnson continued to log over 23 minutes of ice time a game, and contributed 24 points (8 goals and 16 assists) from the blue line. Johnson grew up in Indianapolis and attended the University of Michigan for two years prior to joining the Kings at age 20.

Below the fold, we’ll break down the deal.

The deal gives Los Angeles some much needed scoring punch. In a wide-open Western Conference, Los Angeles possesses the most dangerous of playoff commodities – Jonathan Quick. Quick has been insanely good and a hot goalie in the post-season very frequently translates into a Cup victory.

If healthy, Carter gives the team a legitimate power play option and scoring threat every time he’s on the ice. Quick stoning the Sedins, Joe Thornton or Pavel Datsuk doesn’t mean a thing if there isn’t someone to tally goals. Addressing that need was the biggest priority.

Injuries are often the initial excuse for Carter’s poor play in Columbus. But listen a little longer and the lack of good fit becomes obvious. Carter’s deal was an albatross for the Flyers, so they moved him. The fire that earned Carter the 11-year, $58 million contract, that carried an annual cap hit of just under $5.3 million was hard to find.

Speculation became more open as the deadline continued to approach that Carter was unhappy and not putting forth his all to rehabilitate his ailments. Bad attitude was a whipsered cause of his departure from the Philadelphia as well.

The deal re-unites Carter with fellow former Flyer Mike Richards, who was also dealt last June on the day before the trade deadline. And who was considered expendable, not because of lack of talent, but because of character concerns. The rumored rift between Flyers Captain Chris Pronger and the pair of Richards and Carter was considered a proximate cause in the pre-draft house cleaning on Broad Street.

Johnson, 25, was originally drafted #3 overall by the Carolina Hurricanes, who wanted him to skip college. But Johnson honored his commitment to the Wolverines with freshman and sophomore seasons that broke school records for points by defensemen in their first and second years of eligibility.

Unable to convince Johnson to forgo his sophomore year, the ‘Canes dealt Johnson to Los Angeles. He broke into the league at age 20 playing just five games, but averaging over 20 minutes of ice time and racking up 18 PIM.

Johnson’s role in Columbus depends in part on what happens between now and 3 pm Eastern on Monday. If Rick Nash goes, as is widely expected, Johnson becomes the player around which the Blue Jackets build their future. If Nash stays, they may again think about a big acquisition this offseason to try to build a contender quickly.