Jeff Carter heard the buzz about his impending trade away from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
More accurately, he felt the buzz. Carter spent the early-evening hours of Feb. 23 at Columbus’ Nationwide Arena, participating in an event for season-ticket holders. At the same time, Columbus management members were finalizing details of a blockbuster trade that would send Carter to the Kings.
``I had my phone in my pocket and I could hear it vibrate and vibrate,’’ Carter said. ``I was sitting there playing video games with a bunch of kids, and I was like, `Jeez.’ Then I looked over my shoulder and someone was waiting behind me. I figured something that happened. A little awkward. I actually had a few people come up and ask me if I had gotten traded, because it was already on Twitter or something.’’
Sure enough, Carter had been dealt to the Kings, in exchange for defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round draft pick. Tonight, exactly two weeks later, Carter and Johnson will face their former teammates as the Kings take on the Blue Jackets, the latest twist in Carter’s odd journey over the past 12 months.
A year ago, Carter was headed toward the playoffs as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, a member of a young, talented core that was expected to carry the team into the next decade. Then, in June, the Flyers decided on a roster shakeup, and dealt Carter to Columbus and Mike Richards
to the Kings.
By his own admission, the trade was difficult on Carter. As the Blue Jackets fell into last place in the Western Conference, after high early-season expectations, media reports swirled that Carter wanted to be traded, or at least wouldn’t protest a move away from the Blue Jackets.
``I think that’s tough to say,’’ Carter said. ``I don’t know if that’s completely true. Obviously when I got traded from Philly, it was hard on me, something that I didn’t expect. Over time, you get over that. I came in here [Columbus] with an open mind. There were a lot of expectations around the team, from the fans and the city and stuff like that. For whatever reason, it didn’t really work out that way, and things just started to snowball from there. When you’re losing games, like we did, and giving up leads late, it’s pretty tough on guys. It’s hard to kind of keep going. It was a tough year.’’
Carter, a former 40-goal scorer and three-time 30-goal scorer, played 39 games for the Blue Jackets and had 15 goals and 10 assists. Since joining the Kings, he has two goals in five games.
Carter has made the playoffs in five of his six NHL seasons, and now finds himself in a playoff race, as the Kings enter today in ninth place in the Western Conference. Carter said he’s enjoying his time with the Kings, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s playing on the same line as Richards, a close friend.
``It’s been a good go here so far,’’ Carter said. ``The team is playing well, and it’s a chance to play in the playoffs. I think that’s what every player wants, so it’s good.’’
Carter chuckled when asked about what type of reaction he expected from the Columbus fans, and said, ``I don’t know,’’ but didn’t shy away from the suggestion that he might have extra motivation tonight.
``Obviously you want to go out and play good and beat your old team,’’ Carter said. ``I think above all that is, we’re in a pretty tight race here too. We need two points, for sure.’’
Author: Rich Hammond