Thursday, December 24, 2020

Rangers Preview: Anson Carter Jersey Card

This will likely be the preface to all of this year's Season Preview posts: 2020 is a different beast and requires adaptability; in my case, it means the joint posts with my "main/personal" blog will not be in the "player here/analysis there" format but rather the entire scope of the analysis will take place here and the player will have some sort of direct connection to what's written. Caveats: at this point, despite the season being set to start in Mid-January, several impact players haven't found a team yet and quite a few teams are currently above the salary cap, which means there is much maneuvering left to do.

That being said, the New York Rangers are, surprisingly, one of the few teams who have some kind of control over their current cap, with just under $4.9M in cap space (including the $3.95M cap penalty because of all the bonuses on their contracts), and they only have 43 NHL contracts when most teams are near the limit of 50. They can acquire a star at the deadline to help push them over the edge and into a playoff spot if at all possible for GM Jeff Gorton (Covid-19 regulations and quarantine rules pending).

What makes their odds look good:
The Rags fast-tracked their rebuild last season with the acquisition of Artemi Panarin, who helped Mika Zibanejad complete his development into a true #1 centre. Ryan Strome has found his niche centering the middle-six in Manhattan, and he will be able to draw on his own experience to help guide the first-overall pick in the last draft, Alexis Lafrenière, around the difficulties that lie with high expectations. Speaking of high expectations, expect 24-year-old rookie Igor Shesterkin to be annointed the #1 goalie, ahead of Alexandar Georgiev - a duo David Quinn and the rest of the coaching staff were so confident in that the team bought out Henrik Lundqvist on a year where it will be mandatory to have three healthy goalies on hand. Vitali Kravtsov is another highly-touted rookie, but even though he is 20 years old (two years older than Lafrenière), he shouldn't be expected to make the team for another two seasons, because at 6'3" and 189 pounds, he's expected to become a power forward, and they take longer to develop and get comfortable with their bodies; he will also need to add more muscle to his frame.

The defense is impressive, particularly the right side with Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox and Tony DeAngelo. Someone on the right might actually get sacrificed to spruce up the left side, where veterans Brendan Smith and Jack Johnson have seen better days.

Question marks:
Can rookie goalies actually cut it in today's NHL? Does Kaapo Kakko require a couple of seasons in Europe to perfect his game and learn to play against, equal and eventually dominate against men? How long will Chris Kreider be worth his cap hit before age or karma start to collect on the many hits he's dished out over the years?

The Rangers are definitely on the rise and will be fighting for the last playoff spot in their division with the injury-depleted Boston Bruins and the fading Pittsburgh Penguins; they might surpass the Pens next season, but we're probably not there yet.

Sixth in the Metropolitan/East Division.

When the NHL and Adidas announced their "Reverse Retro" program in November, my very first thought was to feature the Lady Liberty jersey in my preview post, I just wasn't certain which player I would go with; I opted for Anson Carter, because I liked him a lot and because the jersey appears very clearly on card #110 from Upper Deck's 2003-04 SP Game-Used Edition set and SP Star Fabrics sub-set:
What a great jersey! The card itself features a blue game-worn swatch, but it could be from the Rangers' traditional uniform, as it's brighter than the Liberty one, I believe.

Kids these days mostly know Carter as a "former player" and NBC Sports and MSG Network analyst, but he was a heck of a hockey player. Originally a Québec Nordiques draft pick, he was sent to the Washington Capitals by the relocated Colorado Avalanche for a fourth-rounder after failing to sign a contract with the team despite having been named a CCHA First-Team All-Star in 1993-94 and 1994-95 and Second Team All-Star in 1995-96 with the Michigan State Spartans (my guess is the team was already overcrowded with offensive talent, having just won the Stanley Cup, and they wanted to kick the can of integrating young talent farther down the line).

He didn't stay long in Washington, as the team packaged him with Jason Allison, Vezina-winning goalie Jim Carey, a 1997 third-round pick (Lee Goren) and a conditional 1998 pick in a trade for the Bruins' top centre Adam Oates, starting goalie Bill Ranford and declining power forward Rick Tocchet. His 13 points in 19 games to close off the 1996-97 season were an instant hit in Boston, and while his 43 points in 78 games the following year had Bruins fans worried, he quickly gained back their trust and admiration with 46 goals, 41 assists and 87 points in his next 114 games in consecutive, injury-filled seasons in which he showed a lot of grit and emotion.

The turn-of-the-millennium Bruins were rebuilding around 20-year-olds Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov, so anyone 25 and older was trade bait, even long-time captain Ray Bourque, so Carter was sent to the Edmonton Oilers with the first-round pick that became Ales Hemsky and the second-rounder that became Doug Lynch, as well as a conditional pick in the 2003 draft, for Bill Guerin and a first-rounder in the 2001 draft (Shaone Morrisonn).

Carter would excel in Edmonton, posting 42 points in 61 games in 2000-01 and exploding with 28 goals, 32 assists and 60 points in 82 games the following year in the midst of the Dead Puck Era, a production he followed with 25 more goals and 55 more points in just 68 games until the Oilers pulled the trigger on a deal themselves, sending him along with Ales Pisa to the Rangers for Cory Cross and Radek Dvorak.

He became a bit of a journeyman at this point, spending just under a calendar year in NYC, with the Rangers themselves sending him back to Washington (for the services of Jaromir Jagr, no less), who themselves sent him to the Los Angeles Kings a couple of months later after just 19 games (10 points); he'd close out the 2003-04 season with 15 games (with 1 assist) in L.A before signing a one-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks in 2005-06 and splitting the 2006-07 campaign between the Columbus Blue Jackets (54 games, 27 points) and Carolina Hurricanes (10 games, 1 goal).

His year in Vancouver was as remarkable as his time in Edmonton, hitting the 30-goal mark for the first time (33) to go with his 55 points.

He's also a three-time gold medal winner with Team Canada, at the 1994 World Juniors and 1997 and 2003 World Championships. He now resides in Atlanta.

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