Why Sam Carrick may not be 4th line fixture for Rangers

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The New York Rangers will have a new fourth-line center in 2024-25 after the San Jose Sharks claimed Barclay Goodrow off of waivers. To start the season at least, it seems that void will be filled by Sam Carrick, who signed with the Blueshirts in free agency on a three-year deal after splitting the past season with the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers.

Carrick’s $1 million cap hit is far more digestible than the $3.6 million that Goodrow was making annually. With the Rangers needing all the salary relief they can get, dumping their alternate captain was a no-brainer, even despite his postseason success. But that doesn’t mean Carrick is necessarily the perfect long-term solution to center New York’s fourth line.

In fact, the analytics raise valid concerns about dressing Carrick when the postseason rolls around.

Of course, there’s no way around the fact that Goodrow had a poor regular season in 2023-24, and the analytics agree. He ranked in the sixth percentile overall and had a negative goals-above-replacement value (GAR) at both even-strength offense and even-strength defense (per Evolving Hockey).

In fact, Goodrow’s even-strength defense took a massive nosedive after his departure from the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2021 and he never once posted a positive even-strength defensive rating in his three seasons with the Rangers.

However, he was an instrumental piece of the penalty kill, leading the top shorthanded unit on the League’s third-best penalty kill in 2023-24. Goodrow ranked seventh out of 824 skaters with 3.0 GAR shorthanded, placing him in the 99th percentile of all NHL players (per Evolving Hockey’s GAR tables).

On the other hand, shorthanded defense is Carrick’s worst metric, ranking 795th in GAR and 801st in xGAR on the penalty kill. That places him in the bottom three percent of all NHL skaters.

Carrick’s an upgrade at even strength over Goodrow, at least based on GAR, and actually ranked above average at even-strength defense. But it doesn’t appear he’ll be the perfect replacement for a Rangers’ penalty kill that took a massive leap this season, though he did score two shorthanded goals last season with the Ducks.

Perhaps Carrick will see less PK time than Goodrow and a younger player, such as Alexis Lafreniere or Filip Chytil, will be worked into the mix. If Jonny Brodzinski is in the lineup, he might get a look on the PK too. And Matt Rempe has said it’s a goal of his to one day be a regular on the PK unit.

Maybe some of Carrick’s poor metrics has to do with the team he played on, since he spent 61 games last season with the Ducks, who wound up with the third-worst record in the NHL. After totaling -6.8 GAR in Anaheim, Carrick produced positive metrics across the board in Edmonton and finished with 2.8 GAR in his 16 regular-season games with the Oilers.

Could Sam Carrick have similar Rangers fate as Nick Bonino?

NHL: Washington Capitals at Edmonton Oilers
Perry Nelson-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Carrick appeared in just 10 of Edmonton’s 25 postseason games, logging a team-low 85:55 minutes and appeared in just one of the seven Stanley Cup Final contests. He posted a minus-1 rating and was out-chanced by 16.

Despite debuting in 2014-15 as a 22-year-old, Carrick has only played 50-plus games three times in the NHL, doing so consecutively for the past three seasons. He’s appeared in just 240 games over an eight-year career as he readies for his age-32 season. A late bloomer perhaps.

While he has scored 10-plus goals in two of the past three seasons and could provide more in the way of even-strength offense than Goodrow did last season when he mustered four goals in 80 games, it’s no guarantee that Carrick is ensured a full season as New York’s fourth-line center.

The Rangers started last season with Nick Bonino and Tyler Pitlick on the fourth line, both of whom were placed on waivers in February after uninspiring play. Granted, Bonino and Pitlick were on one-year deals at the time, but Carrick’s low AAV would make it easy to dispose of the contract or stash in the American Hockey League if necessary.

Of course, that low AAV also makes Carrick extremely attractive the next three seasons. If he can give the Rangers consistent solid play, he’ll be a bargain at $1 million annually and help ease New York’s cap woes in coming years.

It’s worth noting that Bonino and Pitlick each posted stronger metrics the season prior to joining the Rangers than Carrick did entering the upcoming season.

One element Carrick is sure to bring is an element of toughness. He was 12th in the NHL with 102 penalty minutes last season, and has 316 PIM in 240 NHL games. A fourth line of Carrick, Rempe and, say, Adam Edstrom would be a handful for the opposition.

While the current expectation is for Carrick to start the season as the fourth-line center and a member of the penalty kill, the Blueshirts could be active once again before the trade deadline to bolster a roster with high expectations and compete for a Stanley Cup Championship.

It should come as no surprise if Carrick finds himself relegated to an inconsistent role down the stretch, not unlike the manner in which the Oilers elected to use him on their run to the Cup Final.