Both began their careers as highly-touted prospects with the Flyers.
Each won a Stanley Cup with the 2012 Los Angeles Kings.
And now, to really no one’s surprise, the two are reuniting for a new run at another piece of coveted silver with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In the eyes of many, Ron Hextall and Jeff Carter were just meant to be together in the sport of hockey.
When Hextall, now general manager of the Penguins, made a deal to bring Carter to the Steel City on Monday for the Penguins’ playoff drive, few eyebrows were raised.
After all, with Hextall a talent evaluator with the Flyers back in the early 2000s, he no doubt played a part in the Flyers’ decision to select the towering center/right wing in the first round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
And Hextall, the fiery goalie who led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1987, surely had input with then-Kings GM Dean Lombardi (as assistant GM) when Carter was brought in from Columbus in a 2012 deal, not long after the Flyers had traded Carter to the Blue Jackets in exchange for Jake Voracek and a No. 8 overall draft pick which became Sean Couturier.
So when Hextall believed he needed one more forward to complement a forward line which is loaded with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin, the 36-year-old Carter seemed like the logical choice.
“Jeff offers a lot,’’ Hextall said during a media Zoom call. “He’s a playoff proven player. He’s got a lot of versatility. He can play special teams, five on five, center, play the wing. He just brings a lot to the table.
“We felt like it was enough of an upgrade. Our team has done a great job through a tremendous amount of injuries to key players (including Malkin). The injuries made us think long and hard about where we’re at, and what area we could try to get better to give us a better chance to, first of all, make the playoffs and then have success in the playoffs.’’
If the replacement players had not done enough, Hextall might not have made the deal.
“Acquiring Jeff is really a credit to the job our players have done,’’ Hextall said.
According to Hextall, Carter’s reaction to the deal was an enthusiastic one, even though he’s leaving sunny L.A.
“Jeff was very good,’’ Hextall said. “I think there was a time when Jeff wanted to finish in L.A., kind of envisioned himself finishing in L.A. Which I think a lot of players, when they’re with a team, don’t want to get traded.
“But I can tell you I talked to him and he was in a terrific mood. His exact words to me were: ‘I’m all in, I can’t wait to get there.’+’’
In addition to his two Cups with the Kings, Carter was also part of the 2009-10 Flyers team which made it to the Finals but lost to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Carter would like nothing more than to make it three championships and it’s rather obvious he’s got a much better chance with the Penguins than the rebuilding Kings.
“So we have a player here who’s won two Stanley Cups and he’s hungry to win another. His reaction I thought was terrific,’’ Hextall said.
“I asked him, ‘you know what Jeff, you’re been around a long time, do you need a day or so to get yourself to get yourself together before you come out?’ He said, ‘I can come out whenever you want, I’m ready to go tomorrow.’+’’
Which means he will be ready to face his old team when the Flyers come to town on Thursday.
Carter’s sharpshooting skills cannot be overstated.
He leads the Kings practically every year in shots on net and ranks among the NHL’s top 30 virtually each season.
“One of his top attributes has always been his shot,’’ Hextall said. “He’s got a very good release. So when you try to get the puck to the net in the playoffs, it’s not easy to do. Some of the fancy plays go by the wayside. You have to put pucks at net. Jeff does an extremely good job at that.
“He gives us a right shot on the penalty kill and faceoffs. He’s going to bring a lot to the table. I know our guys are excited about this deal.’’
In 1,080 NHL games, Carter has recorded 390 goals/751 points with a plus-31. In 461 games with the Flyers, he totaled 181/343 with a plus-51.
After this year, he has one-year remaining on an 11-year, $58-million contract he signed with the Flyers in 2010.
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