Player: Jeff Carter
Born: January 1, 1985 (Age 37 season)
Height: 6’ 3”
Weight: 219 pounds
Hometown: London, Ontario, Canada
Draft: 2003 NHL Draft, 1st Round (11th overall) by the Philadelphia Flyers
2021-22 Statistics: 76 games, 19 goals, 26 assists, 45 points, minus-8, 38 penalty minutes
Contract Status: Carter would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season, but the Penguins re-signed him to a two-year contract extension that runs through the end of the 2023-24 NHL season and has a salary cap hit of $3.125 million per season.
Carter appeared in all seven playoff games for the Penguins, scoring four goals and one assists for five total points. That includes a two-goal effort in the Penguins’ 7-4 Game 3 win. In two postseasons with the Penguins he has scored eight goals, two assists, and 10 total points. Along with his offensive production, he also gained attention for his collision with New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin late in Game 2 of the series.
Story of the Season
It was an interesting season for Carter with some ups and downs. He got off to a great start and finished with solid enough numbers. If you would have told me a year ago that the Penguins would get 19 goals and 46 total points out of a full season from Carter in his age 37 season I would have signed up for that in an instant. But when he was not actually scoring goals there were some dry spells in his overall game where he was not really doing much to drive play. He filled in great in a top role early in the season when Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were injured, but he definitely seemed to run out of steam in the middle of the season. He did rebound with some good production in the playoffs, but again, the overall play was lacking at times.
Regular season 5v5 advanced stats
Data via Natural Stat Trick. Ranking is out of 17 forwards on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 150 minutes.
Corsi For%: 47.0% (16th)
Goals For%: 43.6% (17th)
xGF%: 47.5% (17th)
Scoring Chance %: 48.6% (14th)
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 48.8% (16th)
5v5 on-ice shooting%: 7.5% (9th)
On-ice save%: 91.0% (12th)
Goals/60: 0.66 (12th)
Assist/60: 0.90 (12th)
Points/60: 1.57 (12th)
— This is where things start to paint a rough picture for Carter’s season. His underlying numbers relating to possession and scoring chances are all among the worst on the team, showing just how much trouble the team had controlling the pace of play when he was on the ice. It got to the point late in the season where his line was a drag on the offense and probably should have been relegated to fourth line minutes.
Even his individual per 60 numbers relating to goals, assists, and points were not all that great.
While he had very solid box score numbers, these numbers indicate that he was one of the least productive and useful forwards on the roster during the 2021-22 regular season and playoffs.
That is not a great sign as he is set to start a new two-year contract extension in his age 38 season.
Having to play for half a season as the second line center, Carter’s competition increased and his metrics at even strength went down. He’s still a player that is capable of scoring a lot and was much more effective on special teams than his three-year average includes here, but probably is best suited with a lighter load as get gets so deep into his career.
Carter is one of the rare players who has scored more goals (418 in his career) than assists (398), so it is no surprise to see his passing stats don’t track out well. He is a unique player as a shoot-first center, but he shoots well and clearly still has some hands to go along with the goal scoring touch and instinct that has led to so many goals. Carter isn’t a stand out in the neutral zone with entries or exits, and at this stage of his career probably needs wingers that can carry the puck with regularity.
Jeff Carter with a quick spinning goal against the Anaheim Ducks to open the scoring.
Jeff Carter comes out of the penalty box to score the game-winning goal in overtime against the Buffalo Sabres early in the season.
Jeff Carter with a late second period goal in Game 4 of the First Round series against the New York Rangers to extend the Penguins lead.
Carter was an outstanding addition at the 2020-21 NHL trade deadline by new general manager Ron Hextall and gave the Penguins exactly what that team needed in terms of a third-line center and depth scoring. His 2021-22 season got off to a great start to continue that momentum. But things cooled off considerably for him as the season went on, especially as it relates to his ability to carry a line and provide that necessary scoring depth. If he is not scoring goals, there is not much here and that seems unlikely to change as he heads into his age 38 season. That two-year contract extension might look to be a problem moving forward and a contract that did not need to be signed when it was.
At this point I do not think Carter is going to be somebody that can carry a line, but he does still have a good shot and some finishing ability in the offensive zone. The best case scenario might be a better version of what we saw this season: Somebody that can maybe score 20 or so goals and provide some offense on the second power play unit. That might be the best we can hope for here.
Question to ponder
Will Jeff Carter play the remainder of his contract with the Penguins? This contract carries a no-movement clause, but at age 38 I could see a scenario in which Carter retires before the end of it or maybe has the last year bought out. Beyond that, what exactly is his role going to be on this team? By the end of the 2021-22 season he was barely useful enough to be a third-line center, and there is no way he should be an option for a second-line center in the event that Evgeni Malkin does not re-sign before being an unrestricted free agent.
How Would You Grade Jeff Carter’s 2021-22 Performance?
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