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What is a reasonable expectation for Jeff Carter?

There is always a high bar set for trade deadline acquisitions, and sometimes it is difficult to reach.

Minnesota Wild v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images

Jeff Carter will be making his debut for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night against, oddly enough, the Philadelphia Flyers. It will be our first chance to see how this new addition is going to look in the lineup.

I, for one, am optimistic about it.

Carter may not be an elite player anymore, but for the role the Penguins are going to be asking him to perform — especially when everybody is back in the lineup — he should be more than an adequate.

But what should we realistically expect here, and what would make this addition a success?

Every time there is a trade deadline acquisition like this the expectation tends to get a little out of control, and anything short of a Stanley Cup makes it seem like the entire move was a waste of time. Championship-or-bust mentality in sports is where fools reside because even the absolute best team in the league, with the best odds of winning, is going to have the odds overwhelmingly stacked against them. Chances are, you are going to lose at some point in the playoffs. It is not because you failed or built a wrong team or acquired the wrong player. It is just simply the reality of sports where only one team lifts the trophy.

We have seen that mentality at play with other trade deadline acquisitions.

Jarome Iginla is still seen as a failure because of the way that season ended, even though he had 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in 28 games (regular season and postseason).

Derrick Brassard was seen as a bad investment because... well ... maybe it was.

We wrote off Patrick Marleau because he played a few games, the season got stopped, and then everybody came back in a weird bubble situation where everything was messed up. Who knows how that works out in a normal season.

So I do not think the Penguins need to win the Stanley Cup for it to be worth it, and I will not put that expectation on it.

So what do we need to see to make it worth it?

Let’s look at it objectively.

Over the past two years Carter has scored at a 0.25 goals per game pace while averaging three shots on goal per game and being on the positive side of the possession game. That is actually a fairly decent number (a 20-goal pace per 82 games) and one that only a handful of Penguins are maintaining this season. With 14 games remaining in the regular season that same pace would be around three or four goals the rest of the way. That should be manageable.

If Carter can give the Penguins that level of production, continue to be a positive on the possession, and be a shot generator like he has been in Los Angeles then he is going to be a productive addition. They do not need him to be a superstar. They need him to be a middle-six player that can, in an ideal lineup, push the third line.

Basically, I want him to be the new Nick Bonino.

That is not going to be huge offensive numbers, but it is going to be productive.

It is not going to be a game-changer every night, but it does not need to be.

If he gives the Penguins that level of play it is going to not only give the Penguins the three-center model that has benefitted them so well over the years, it would actually give them a four-center model with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Carter, and Teddy Blueger down the middle. That would be tough for any team to match up with.

That is going to give them a chance to make some noise in the playoffs.

Will it result in a Stanley Cup? Chances are, no. But that is not a reflection on the trade itself. It is simply a reflection on the nature of professional sports.

If Carter can give three or four goals down the stretch and otherwise solid play, and make a similar contribution in the playoffs, then the trade accomplished whatever it was intended to accomplish no matter what the team does as a whole. Do not use anything more than that to judge it.