The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed Jeff Carter to a two-year contract extension, avoiding unrestricted free agency this summer. The deal will carry an average annual value of $3.125MM and includes a full no-movement clause. Carter is in the final season of an 11-year, $58MM deal that was signed back with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 and currently carries a cap hit of just over $5.27MM, half of which is retained by the Los Angeles Kings.
That means this new deal actually increases the cap hit for the Penguins, but with Carter’s performance since he arrived in Pittsburgh, it is deserved. The 37-year-old has been excellent in his short time there, scoring 21 goals and 37 points in 50 games. He’s also continued to be the versatile forward he has been since 2005, able to line up at center or the wing, engage physically or play a skilled role on the powerplay. Carter has now played 1,130 games during his long, successful career, and broke the 400-goal mark earlier this season.
Ron Hextall, who has been linked to Carter in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia over the years, released a statement on the extension:
Jeff’s experience and versatility have made him a valuable addition to our team. In addition to his on-ice contributions, his team-first attitude has made him a leader inside our locker room and we are happy to have him under contract for two more years.
Just this month Carter told reporters that he hoped to play a few more years, not ready to hang up his skates just yet. He’ll now be in Pittsburgh for the next few years at least, helping Sidney Crosby and company try to take home another Stanley Cup.
It’s an interesting move for the Penguins and one that seems to signal that any thought of a rebuild will have to wait. The team is still in win-now mode after a brilliant recent stretch and is ready to commit to this core group. Signing a 37-year-old to an extension partway through the season isn’t a very common occurrence, but for the Penguins, they obviously wanted to avoid any chance of losing Carter in the offseason.
Still, the faith they are showing in him comes with some risk. Carter is in his 17th season in the NHL and though he is currently still an effective option, that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be in 2024. The management group in Pittsburgh must know that Crosby and Evgeni Malkin–a free agent himself this summer–only really have a few years left of being among the best players in the world though, meaning they have a limited chance to surround them with talent. By 2024, the window may already be closed, meaning a slight overpayment for a declining forward won’t be the end of the world.
Malkin’s future stands out as the next item on the docket for Hextall and the rest of the Penguins front office, but he’s certainly not alone. Kris Letang and Bryan Rust are also pending unrestricted free agents, along with several other depth players. With Carter locked up the team knows it has a middle-six center option to slot in behind Crosby, but there are a lot of other uncertain pieces in Pittsburgh right now.
Bob McKenzie of TSN was first to break the news.