CBJ acquire Johnson, 1st round pick for Carter
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Los Angeles Kings needed a goal-scorer. The Columbus Blue Jackets simply needed a redo.
Both teams met their needs Thursday night by pulling off a major trade that sent forward Jeff Carter from Columbus to the Los Angeles Kings for defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round draft pick in either 2012 or 2013.
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Carter, 27, is expected to supply offense for the goal-starved Kings, who started Thursday night in eighth place in the Western Conference.
“Even in the summer, I always felt we were a top forward away,” Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said. “Now, that said, I certainly didn’t think we were (going to be) 30th in the league in scoring.”
Carter signed an 11-year, $58 million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers in November 2010, but now will be joining his third team since agreeing to it.
Acquired in a blockbuster deal with Philadelphia last summer, Carter was expected to center the Blue Jackets’ top line with captain Rick Nash, who is also rumored to be on the trading block leading up to Monday’s NHL dealing deadline. But Carter missed 20 games due to a broken foot and a separated shoulder. He had three goals in the Blue Jackets’ previous game and has 15 goals and 10 assists in 39 games this season.
Carter will be reunited with forward Mike Richards, who was traded by the Flyers to the Kings last June on the same day Carter was shipped to Columbus in a major Philadelphia housecleaning.
Carter has scored at least 30 goals three times, and has hit the 20-goal mark five times during his six-plus seasons in the NHL. But he struggled to find a role in Columbus.
“We were excited and had high expectations when we acquired Jeff Carter, but we just couldn’t find the right fit for him here,” Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson said.
A telephone message left for Carter by The Associated Press wasn’t immediately returned.
Johnson, a 25-year-old former University of Michigan star, has eight goals and 16 assists this season, his fifth in the NHL — all with the Kings.
If the Kings make the playoffs this season, they will send their first-round pick this summer to the Blue Jackets. If Los Angeles fails to qualify, Columbus will have the choice of taking this year’s pick or next year’s top selection.
“I think the only way that we can make this deal is because we have some young defensemen coming through the system,” Lombardi said. “It kind of allowed us to reach out to a player of this caliber, who’s still a young player barely in his prime.”
At a hastily called news conference late on Thursday night, Howson said Johnson was “over the top excited” about the trade.
There had been grumbling from fans last summer when Carter appeared to be less than enthusiastic about coming from the talent-rich, playoff-proven Flyers to a franchise that has made only one postseason trip in its 11 seasons. And that ended with a four-game sweep three years ago.
Howson said the addition of Johnson immediately improves the Blue Jackets’ questionable defense.
“We’ve got a quality top-four defenseman,” he said. “We now have a very good defense.”
Columbus dealt one of its top centers, Antoine Vermette, to Phoenix on Wednesday for a minor league goalie and two draft picks. With rumors still flying about Nash, Howson said he expected to be busy through Monday.
Howson added that recent deals will go a long way toward remaking the struggling franchise.
“We are committed to a competitive culture with huge expectations for everybody in our organization,” Howson said. “We’re looking for every and all opportunities to improve this organization.”
Both players have long-term contracts. Johnson has a $4.36 million cap hit in the first year of a seven-year deal that expires at the end of 2018.
In 343 NHL games, Johnson has 30 goals, 94 assists and 256 penalty minutes.
Columbus has sought to remold its team after a disappointing season. The Blue Jackets (18-35-7) are last in the NHL, by far, in wins and points.
“We were patient and wanted to see what was out there,” Howson said, without mentioning Nash by name. “I’m really excited about where we’re going.”