The Sedin twins they are not, but Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have plenty of experience playing together, and their reunion in Los Angeles could spark the Kings’ struggling offense and help reinvigorate a team that was supposed to be a lock for the playoffs.
The Kings currently rank last in the NHL in goals scored per game, averaging just 2.05, and are barely outside the playoff picture – an unexpected twist for a team that boasts the likes of Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Justin Williams, and added Mike Richards via trade last summer.
“I think it’s been fairly obvious this year that we’ve struggled with our offensive game and it’s something we’ve been looking at for quite a while, in a number of areas,” Kings general manager Dean Lombardi told the Kings website. “We had to give up a very good player here, but we think we have some depth on our back end coming — and Jeff brings a lot of things we’re looking for.”
The trade will reunite Carter and Richards, who played together in Philadelphia and then were broken up thanks to separate trades last summer that saw Richards go to Los Angeles for a package and players and Carter to Columbus. Both players have struggled to find their niche, although Carter has been limited to just 39 games this season thanks to injuries
“He’s big, fast and has that natural scoring instinct,” Lombard said. “Obviously we’re very familiar (with him) — John Stevens has coached him, Mike Richards was a teammate of his. These are tough deals to make, but it’s something we felt we had to do.”
The Blue Jackets also make out well in the deal by adding defensive depth in Jack Johnson, a player who went third overall in the same draft as Sidney Crosby. At 25-years-old, Johnson has a lot of upside to his game and will help provide a puck-moving presence on Columbus’ blue line.
“He’s a talented, skilled player with the puck, he’s a tremendous skater,” said Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson. “He’s got a lot of upside too – he’s only 25. If you look at the historical trend of defensemen, they usually don’t hit their prime until their late-20s. We talked and he was over-the-top excited about coming and joining the club.”
In 343 regular season games with the Kings, Johnson has 124 points, including 30 goals. Johnson is also signed through 2018, giving Columbus another long-term building block for a team that has several gaps to fill in their lineup.
“We’re excited about what we got – we think it puts us in a good position,” Howson said Thursday night after the trade. “No, we did not feel like we had to move Jeff Carter or anyone else before the deadline. Again, if the opportunity was there, we were going to take, and if the return was right.”