Howson’s ability to flip Carter after such an inauspicious stint in Columbus is also worth noting. It’s like buying a car; discovering it’s not exactly what you thought you were getting; and then flipping it almost right away and happily learning that it didn’t depreciate as much as Consumers Reports said it would. In the original deal with Philadelphia, Carter cost the Blue Jackets two first-rounders - Jacob Voracek and Sean Couturier - plus third-rounder Nick Cousins, who is playing well in the Ontario Hockey League this season. Howson essentially got two first-rounders back, Johnson and L.A.’s choice either this year or next, which likely won’t be in the top 15. So that’s a net loss if you consider that Couturier went eighth overall last year and is already playing in the NHL. On the other hand, it is unlikely that Howson could have flipped Voracek to the Kings for Johnson straight up last summer, so that’s a net gain. Ultimately, it comes out close to even, which is an amazing achievement considering all the baggage, financial and otherwise, that accompanies Carter.
From L.A.’s perspective, Carter figures to be highly motivated, wanting to prove that he is still capable of scoring 40 goals in a season, be a good team player and help a team win.
The lesson on the Columbus side is that they’ll need to think harder in the future about how a player fits into their city and franchise. Johnson may be a better fit in that regard - born in Indianapolis, played in Minnesota for Shattuck St. Mary’s, but is essentially a Michigan guy now: two years in the U.S. national development program, two years at the University of Michigan. Moving to Columbus gets him closer to home; and he may blossom there, a player who was once thought to have Norris Trophy-potential, who has become a good, but not great NHL defenceman, someone who consistently posts ugly plus-minus numbers.
The real untold story here - why were the Kings were not on Nash’s list of preferred destinations? - probably won’t be known definitely until Nash is finally moved. It’s bizarre how many times L.A. has made a splashy presentation to players, from Ilya Kovalchuk to Brad Richards, and been unable to land them. In the NBA, everybody eventually wants to play for the Lakers. Some day, some way, the Kings need to find a way to become that team in the NHL.
THE FAKE TRADE WATCH: Last week’s froth - imagining the a fake NHL trade website - actually turned out remarkably prescient, given how hard it is to nail deals down exactly right. Defenceman Pavel Kubina got traded from Tampa to Philadelphia, as predicted. Centre Antoine Vermette got traded - but to Phoenix, not Washington. The Kings’ Jack Johnson was also traded, not to Philadelphia for James Van Riemsdyk, but to Columbus for Carter, the ex-Flyer forward. Close anyway - and the rationale behind the deal was the same. L.A. needed scoring; and had defensive depth to deal. So this week, we’ll venture that if Columbus is really going to divest themselves of any and all available assets, let’s place Sami Pahlsson with the Detroit Red Wings (because they could use a defensive centre; because Mike Babcock used to coach him in Anaheim; and because he is a useful, skilled, former Stanley Cup champion who is only 34, and not done yet). Let’s put Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky with one of Boston, New York or Los Angeles, a player with enough skill and speed to jump-start a slumbering attack. And just for fun, let’s put both Brown and Nash in Toronto uniforms, which would represent the sort of seismic kerboom! that general manager Brian Burke loves so much. Sure, he’d have to strip his organization bare of young prospects to do it, but given how the Leafs have struggled; and how popular Nash would be (effectively, coming home), it would dwarf any and all other moves at the deadline. And this is supposed to be out entertainment, right?
THE FAKE .500: ... Is my term for the way three-point games distort the NHL standings, and keep so many teams in the playoff races until the bitter end. Anaheim’s recent surge has them above the fake .500 now at 26-25-4-6 which means that 13 of 15 teams in the Western Conference have “winning” records as of Friday morning. Silly. On Thursday evening’s nine-game schedule, five games were decided in shootouts, meaning that of the 18 teams in action, 14 picked up points. The only ones who didn’t were Toronto, Chicago, Tampa and Philadelphia.