But it will not be Jeff Carter. Carter, taken in the 1st round, 11th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2003 entry draft, has a 46 goal, 84 point season to his credit and another where he finished a plus 27. His resume on ice is impressive but it's his off-ice realities that will keep him from becoming a Leaf.
The big reason the Leafs are not about to deal for Jeff Carter is simple - GM Brian Burke. For while he's made big trades for players who command big salaries, Kessel
a case in point, Burke is not a GM given to flexibility about his core beliefs and trading for Jeff Carter would necessitate abandoning more than one.
Brian Burke: Won't Trade for Jeff Carter
Firstly, Carter's not playing well and Burke only gives up assets when the player he gets back is meeting expectations. Kessel was 22 when he arrived and had just come off at 60 point season and was clearly working toward where he is now, a point a game player with a commitment to team that's unparallelled. Not so Carter, the 27-year-old has been oft-injured and has badly underperformed; in 30 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets he has 10 goals and just 7 assists.
Columbus gave up Jakub Voracek and a high draft pick to get Carter and will ask for something along those lines in return. Burke doesn't give a top prospect and high first round pick up for someone who isn't on his game. And a lot of it, reports from Columbus say, is Carter's attitude. It's not good, he's not happy
where he is, did not want to go and he wouldn't even talk to Columbus when he was dealt. That's not a player Brian Burke deals for.
Massive Carter Contract
And even if Burke were willing to trade for a player on a past reputation there's a bigger obstacle - Carter's contract. It comes with a cap hit of $5.2 million every year from now until the year 2022. That would bring Carter to age 37, an age at which players are in decline, in particular one as vulnerable physically as Carter has proven to be this year.
Burke isn't a fan of contracts past three years. So 10 for a guy who has the off-ice rep Carter earned in Philadelphia? A guy openly unhappy about his present situation, despite the team doing everything they can to accommodate him? Including paying him millions of dollars?
Carter's from Ontario so it might seem a nice fit but there's no precedent, nothing in the history of Burke to suggest that he'll take on a player who is not meeting expectations, on or off the ice, and with a decade left on his contract. You'd be as likely to see Vince Carter back with the Raptors as Jeff with the Leafs.
And Toronto fans should be grateful for that.