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Reupped: Penguins keeping ‘Big’ Jeff Carter for two more seasons

The Penguins extend veteran center for two more seasons

NHL: JAN 25 Coyotes at Penguins Photo by Justin Berl/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Penguins signed a big impending free agent, but it wasn’t Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang or Bryan Rust. Instead, it’s veteran center Jeff Carter that the team has come to terms with for a two year contract extension that will start next season and last through 2023-24.

Carter, who turned 37 on New Year’s Day, is now under contract until he will be 39 years old. He is currently playing on a contract signed way back in 2010 that carries a $5.272 million cap hit. Los Angeles picked up 50% of that cap hit, and Carter has counted $2.636 million against Pittsburgh’s salary cap limit since he was acquired last season.

When the Pens played in LA earlier this month, Carter hinted that he was interested in playing longer than his contract, which was set to end at the conclusion of this season.

“It was a tough day [when traded from the Kings], I’ll be honest with you,” Carter said earlier this month. “I wanted to finish my career here [in LA], but you understand the other side of it. The trade worked out great for me. I think it gave me a boost in my career and prolonged it.”

It prolonged it indeed, Carter was working in his latter Kings days mostly on the right wing but has been used almost exclusively as a center as soon as he got to Pittsburgh, becoming either the third line punch behind Sidney Crosby and Malkin, or filling in on the second line if one of the star centers has been out of the lineup.

In 50 regular season games with the Pens, Carter has recorded 21 goals and added 16 assists, showing incredible scoring touch like he has in a career that includes 411 goals.

Carter’s 18:34 average ice time per game this season, again the majority with one of Crosby or Malkin out, is his highest season mark since 2013-14, a Stanley Cup winning year for LA.

This extension means a modest raise against what Carter has been earning against the Pens’ salary cap, but for a strong, veteran center who has been super productive and proven to play well all over the lineup in whatever role needed, it looks to be a wise addition to keep Carter around for the future.

The Penguins do have several key players still to re-sign or replace in the coming months, and limited salary cap space to do so, which means something will have to give. But the terrific fit and production Carter has given the Pens makes his re-signing an easy decision, even if it does take him almost to his 40th birthday. The big center isn’t playing like an old man, and the Pens are counting on that to keep chuggin’ for the next few years.