The Toronto Maple Leafs announced this morning that Connor Carrick would be placed on waivers, but the defenseman never made it there. Instead, he’s been traded to the Dallas Stars in exchange for a conditional 2019 seventh-round pick. That pick will become a sixth-round selection if Carrick plays in 50 games for the Stars this season. There is no salary retained in the deal, meaning Dallas will pick up Carrick’s entire $1.3MM cap hit for 2018-19.
Carrick’s career has slowed considerably over the year, and found himself passed over by several other names in the Maple Leafs depth chart. After suiting up for 73 games for Toronto in the 2016-17 season including all six of their playoff contests against the Washington Capitals, he found himself on the outside looking in quite often last year and was essentially replaced on the roster by Travis Dermott. The only thing that represented some hope for Carrick heading into this season was the lack of depth on the right side for the Maple Leafs, after the departure of Roman Polak—ironically also to the Stars through free agency. Unproven rookie Igor Ozhiganov and 26-year old minor league veteran Justin Holl will start on the Maple Leafs roster as right-handed options now that Carrick has moved on.
Given those who have replaced him in Toronto, one might think that Carrick has struggled mightily to perform at the NHL level. That’s not necessarily true given his excellent possession statistics and reasonable point production last season, but detractors will point to his extremely sheltered usage under head coach Mike Babcock as a reason to believe he won’t be able to handle an increased role. Still, Carrick is just 24 years old and has put up huge numbers at the minor league level in the Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals organization, and should be given a chance to succeed in Dallas this season.
Interestingly, Carrick would seem to objectively carry more value to an organization than fellow depth defenseman Jakub Jerabek, but was able to fetch the Maple Leafs less than the sixth-round pick acquired this morning by the Edmonton Oilers in their trade of the latter. Though Carrick does carry a slightly larger cap hit—Jerabek’s one-year contract is worth just $1MM—he also will still be a restricted free agent next summer and provide another option for the Stars. Polak and Marc Methot are currently scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on July 1, 2019 and could be allowed to walk if Carrick can show his potential was never fully reached in Toronto.
Where he’ll fit into the Dallas lineup isn’t clear at present. Playing exclusively on the right side in Toronto, Carrick seemingly enters a depth chart behind other established options like John Klingberg, Stephen Johns and Polak. Julius Honka still hasn’t been able to lock up a full-time role with the Stars, but also represents a right-handed option for the team going forward. Still, for the cost of a seventh round pick the team will be able to take a first hand look at Carrick and see if they can squeeze any NHL performance out of him over the season. If they can’t, there isn’t a huge loss if they have to try to sneak him through waivers once again.