In June, partially as a response to the re-signing of captain Steven Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning bought out the remaining two years of defenseman Matt Carle’s six-year contract. Carle never found his footing in Tampa Bay, his possession numbers declined continuously, along with his ice time, and after putting up impressive seasons of 35, 41, and 38 points in his last three years with the Flyers, his 31 point year in 2013-14 is the only year with the Lightning where he finished with more than 22. This was all a particular disappointment, since Carle came with a hefty $5.5MM cap hit.
Carle made his name in San Jose as a puck moving defenseman, and was originally dealt to the Lightning in 2008, as part of the trade for Dan Boyle. This was a short-lived arrangement, as 12 games into his first term with the Lightning, he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for a package centered around forward Steve Downie.
Carle blossomed in Philadelphia, and was a consistent offensive presence for the Flyers, helping them reach the Stanley Cup finals in 2010, before losing to the Blackhawks. In that run, Carle scored 13 points in 23 games, playing primarily with future Hall of Fame defense partner Chris Pronger. He also appeared with teammates James van Riemsdyk, Ian Laperriere, and Scott Hartnell in the 2012 comedy This Is 40. By the time the movie was released, only Hartnell was still with the Flyers, in part because in July of 2012, Carle had signed his six year contract with the Lightning, worth a total of $33MM.
When it comes to players who’ve seen their careers hit the skids, it’s not uncommon for coaches and general managers who’ve worked with them before to look to give them a second chance. Former Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren is still the team president, and may be willing to offer him a chance, and it’s possible to envision former Flyers’ coach Peter Laviolette pushing to get him to camp in Nashville, considering how much he’s relied on him before, though the Predators have a very deep defense core, so he may be difficult to fit in. Ottawa Senators’ coach Guy Boucher also has experience with Carle, though he was fired two months into said experience.
Then there are the San Jose Sharks, with GM Doug Wilson having drafted him in 2003. Granted, Wilson was only weeks onto the job in San Jose when he did so, and traded him fairly early into his career. After those teams, the list is fairly non-specific, open to anyone who could use cheap defensive depth. His salary and term won’t be restrictive.
Carle’s age and recent history make him a gamble, and considering he lacks spectacular upside, at this point, that’s a gamble a lot of teams won’t be looking to make. Should he choose to continue his career, which just about every player wants to do as long as they can, and he isn’t old enough to assume he’d happily walk away, it will likely be by trying to stick through a training camp invitation. Should he make a team out of camp, he’ll probably cost in the range of $750k to $1MM, which is roughly what room a team has left to pay a depth defenseman at the end of camp.