Camp Tour: Jeff Carter has extra motivation in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jeff Carter feigned ignorance at the significance of a particular Nov. 5 matchup, but we weren't buying it. Not for a minute.

"What game is that?" Carter responded to ESPN.com on Friday, a chuckle betraying him.

Oh, you better believe the newly acquired Columbus Blue Jackets star center knows darn well when his first regular-season visit to Philadelphia will be.

After Carter was apparently reassured by Philadelphia that he would not get dealt, his bitter divorce from the Flyers on June 23 should make him one highly motivated player this season here in Columbus.

"There's obviously some extra motivation," Carter said. "I'm excited to get this going."

It got going Friday with the opening of camp at Nationwide Arena, where players underwent medicals before they take the ice for the first time Saturday. Coach Scott Arniel didn't waste any time confirming that Carter would begin camp centering fellow star Rick Nash. Where it goes from there is up to the two big guys.

"That's something I've been looking forward to all summer," Carter said. "I got to play with some pretty good players in Philly, but to play with a guy like Rick is taking it to a whole new level. I'm definitely excited, and hopefully we can build some chemistry quickly and get things rolling."

Nash has only had to wait nearly a decade to get to line up with a center of Carter's ilk. Not that he ever complained. But after being a one-man show for so many years here in Columbus, which simplified the other teams' defensive schemes, help has arrived.

"To get Carter is huge," Nash told ESPN.com on Friday. "Ownership stepped up big time; they showed they want to win. It's what they said they wanted to do, and for them to do it is big."

Jackets GM Scott Howson has been trying to lure an elite, No. 1 center to Columbus for years. And it wasn't easy when he finally delivered. Trade talks with the Flyers consumed half a year.

"It started in January," Howson told ESPN.com on Friday. "A lot of names went back and forth, and then it stopped because they were sailing at the trade deadline."

They picked up again after the Flyers were bounced out in the second round.

"They got beat out by Boston and sort of humbled in four straight. I thought maybe there was a chance [of reigniting trade talks]," Howson said. "And you could see the goaltending was going to have to perhaps be addressed. So if they were going to go after a guy like [Ilya] Bryzgalov, you knew they were going to have to move someone. So we started talking seriously right around the [draft] combine [in June] and we were serious right up until the deal was done."

The problem was Carter wasn't thrilled at the onset. He was stunned, shell-shocked, and didn't immediately speak publicly about the trade.

"Me being quiet had nothing to do with Columbus," Carter said. "I was obviously upset with how things went down [in Philadelphia] in the weeks leading up to the trade and then when it happened. I just wanted to take some time and collect my thoughts before I said anything."

Nash also reached out to Carter via text, wanting him to know he was welcome in his new NHL home. That meant something to Carter.

"That was great," Carter said. "I had met him before at Team Canada events and the All-Star Game, but it was real nice of him to reach out and welcome me. He wanted to see if I needed anything or needed to know anything. That was nice."

Howson said it was critical for Nash to have reached out that way. The Jackets, Howson said, were a bit concerned how Carter would react to the trade. Once that first weekend passed, Howson, Arniel and Nash went to Carter's New Jersey home on that Monday.

"I could tell as soon as we walked into his place on the Jersey shore, he was ready to move on," Howson said. "It was good we did that; he was able to look us in the eye. We gave Rick and him some private time, as well. So he was ready to move on at that point. It's still going to be an adjustment when the season starts; we know that. But he's here and he's ready."

On the ice, the test is for Carter and Nash to mesh. The potential knock on the pairing is they're both shooters first, passers second. All the better, Arniel insisted Friday.

"Oh yeah, I like that fact," Arniel said. "As coaches, we're always harping on our players to shoot the puck. I don't think either one of those guys is going to change their mindset. ... I look at [Jonathan] Toews and [Patrick] Kane; both those guys shoot pucks. [Ryan] Getzlaf and [Corey] Perry? Both those guys shoot pucks. When elite players play together like that, they just have that chemistry."

Carter whole-heartedly dismissed that concern.

"I don't see that being a problem at all. I think we're both good enough players that we can figure it out," he said.