Jeff Carter, the 25 year old center, is set to be a Restricted Free Agent this off-season. As expected the one-time 46 goal scorer has been in talks with the Philadelphia Flyers to find a suitable extension for both parties. Carter could possibly fetch up to $7 million dollars a year from an offer sheet. But is he worth that much?
No one will doubt Carter's ability to score in the regular season--last year he potted 33 on a Flyers team that struggled offensively. However, his history of post season vanishing acts, from juniors on, brings up the question of whether Carter can be a contributing factor on a Stanley Cup winner. Paul Holmgren has the job of deciding how much worth Carter holds to the Flyers, a perennial Cup contender. I do not envy him. If Holmgren lets Carter go and he continues to put up 30+ goals a year, fans surely won't look with favor on his choice.
On the other hand, his regular season goals don't tell the whole tale. The Flyers currently have 5 centers in their starting lineup with only 4 center spots. Carter has been bounced to wing this year (despite the fact he is the Flyers best face-off man) and clearly is the odd center out. Richards has a contract that keeps him in a Flyers uniform until 2020. Daniel Briere is locked up through 2015, with a no-trade clause. Claude Giroux is, like Carter, a RFA after this year but has quickly shown he is the future of Philadelphia franchise.
What this all means, at least to me, is that the Flyers have their 3 scoring line centers for quite some time set in stone. Their wingers, however, are not set in stone. Five of their wingers will have their contracts end after this year (Zherdev, Carcillo, Nodl, Leino, and Powe). Leino proved himself worthy of a new contract last post season and has continued that play this year. With all the resigning needed to be done, the Flyers may not be able to keep all their wingers if they choose to resign Giroux (almost a must) and Carter.
Giroux will see big money, Carter will see big money, Leino will see big money. It seems almost impossible to resign all three, which means besides Giroux, which one do you keep?
Carter is very one dimensional--he's a shooter. He doesn't pass very well, he doesn't use his body too much (although his frame may suggest he does) and he hasn't been good in the clutch. Leino on the other hand can shoot, pass, uses his body to plow through defensemen and shield the puck, and was great all playoff run this past year. Plus he is a natural winger, something the Flyers desperately need more of, and need to hold onto. Leino is a UFA and can walk at season end if he chooses to. If they do not resign him, they risk losing him. A team like the Flyers would not move their best winger during the season as they would need him come playoff time, so getting value back for Leino is most likely out.
When it comes down to it, it's all about asset management. How can you get the most value out of Jeff Carter? Keeping him in the lineup and paying him the money or moving him? The latter seems to be the way to receive the best value. If Holmgren keeps Carter, he knows what he will get. He will get a center playing out of position on the wing who may put up 30 goals but not do much else. If they allow Carter to be signed by another team to an offer sheet they can receive two or three 1st round draft picks. If they trade Carter they will surely be able to land a top 6 winger+ package. Either way moving Carter will guarantee the Flyers get full value for Carter and are able to resign Giroux and Leino.
So basically the math works out like this
Giroux+Leino+ Carter's value > Giroux+ Carter
Whatever Paul Holmgren decides to do, I am sure it will give us all plenty to talk about.