July 6, 2012 12:00 pm

Player evaluation: Carter

JEFF CARTER
This season: 16 games, 6 goals, 3 assists, minus-1 rating with Kings (39 games, 15 goals, 10 assists, minus-11 rating with Columbus).
The good: Carter’s arrival, in a late-February trade with the Blue Jackets, brought a wave of enthusiasm to the Kings, who were stuck in a deep offensive rut. Even though his scoring numbers weren’t outstanding, Carter gave the Kings a 40-goal threat that other teams had to worry about. More importantly, he allowed them to balance out their lineup. Rookie wingers Dwight King and Jordan Nolan were able to settle into bottom-six roles, where they could be most effective, and Mike Richards slowly started to come out of his offensive slumber when he got the chance to play alongside Carter, a close friend and talented winger.
The bad: Carter is going to be paid a lot of money (an average of more than $5.27 million) for a long time (he is signed through 2021-22). He’s just now, at age 27, entering what should be his prime years, and he has already scored 46 goals in a single season. The question is, will Carter stay motivated? He’s now a Stanley Cup champion and he’s playing in gorgeous Southern California, alongside a close buddy and with a decade-long contract. Will the fire still be there? There are also injury concerns about Carter, an issue that popped up again late in the regular season when Carter suffered an ankle injury.
Going forward: Everything is in place for Carter to succeed. At this point, he can take a deep breath and put the whirlwind Philadelphia-to-Columbus-to-L.A. experience behind him. He has been fully accepted by his new teammates and he’s a champion. He will be playing a top-six role with talented teammates. Carter had scored at least 33 goals in each of his previous three seasons, and assuming he stays healthy, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to reach that level again.


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