Matt Carle not 'bitter,' wants to stay in Tampa Bay - and play
Matt Carle makes one thing clear.
"I'm not bitter about anything," he said.
The veteran defenseman has plenty of reasons to pout, having been a healthy scratch in two of the last four games. It's something Carle, 31, hasn't experienced in a decade, since his second season in the NHL.
Is Carle happy about it? Of course not. Is he frustrated? For sure. But Carle is not letting the situation impact his attitude and work ethic, as shown by him joking with the six teammates who joined him Friday for a very optional practice at Xcel Energy Center. Carle was one of the last off the ice.
"I'm a big believer in controlling what you can control," Carle said.
Carle can't control the trade rumors, the widespread assumption that the Lightning is trying to shop him. It makes sense with Carle, the team's highest-paid defenseman - a $5.5 million annual cap hit through 2017-18 season - watching from the press box. The Lightning could certainly use cap room if it wants to sign captain Steven Stamkos to a huge extension, not to mention other stars that are due new deals in coming years.
Carle watched fellow veteran Eric Brewer, 36, scratched several times early last season before getting traded to Anaheim in late November. Brewer wanted to play, waived his no-move clause and Tampa Bay got a third-round pick.
But Carle, who also has a modified no-move clause, believes his situation is different, and won't turn out the same way. For one, Carle wants to stay.
"Brew had been around the league a lot longer than I have," Carle said. "To me, I feel like I have a lot of good years left in this league. That's where it's kind of frustrating. But it's one of those things is out of my control. Obviously I love being here and I love playing with these guys, and playing the type of hockey we play and being as competitive as we are. You want to be here and be part of the success that this team can have.
"I don't really look at my situation compared to Brew and hope it works out the same way. That' not my mindframe at all. I want to be here and I want to be playing."
If he decides to move Carle, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman could have a tough time, considering the contract and the fact GMs around the league likely know Tampa Bay needs the cap room. Yzerman doesn't address trade speculation, but said he's spoken with Carle, liking "all players to know where they stand."
Yzerman said Carle sitting has been the result of having seven healthy defensemen, players needing to take turns to remain sharp. "I don't expect them to like it, they're all competitive, they all want to play every single night," Yzerman said. "We understand. We have sympathy for guys."
Yzerman reassigned defenseman Nikita Nesterov to AHL Syracuse Friday, allowing him the opportunity to play two games for the Crunch this weekend and putting Carle back in the lineup Saturday against the Wild. Carle, who is a minus-1 with zero points in 13 games, feels he's played "pretty well" in the games he's been in the lineup. His Corsi percentage (45.97), percentage of on-ice shot attempts (on goal, missed or blocked) taken by Tampa Bay is lowest on the team.
Nesterov, or another Crunch defenseman, will get called up next week, Yzerman saying they'll reassess after the weekend. When that happens, Carle could resume taking turns sitting out.
"I was a young guy at one point in my career, and in order for the young kids to get better, they have to play, and some things have to give sometimes," Carle said. "It's not something I'm happy about, but 'father time' rules all I guess."
Carle prefers to keep the conversation he had with Yzerman private, but said the organization has treated him like a professional, "from the top all the way down." There's a reason Carle signed a six-year, $33 million deal in 2012 for a second stint with the Lightning. Whether Carle finishes out his contract in Tampa Bay remains to be seen.
"You can only count on one hand how many times you can actually pick the team you want to play for," Carle said. "I've only had the opportunity to do it once, and so from that position on, from when you're 18 years old until the day you leave this league, people are going to be controlling what team you play for, how much you're playing. There's only certain amount of things you can control, and attitude and work ethic are two things. You've just got to take advantage of the opportunity you get and try to not let it get to you too much."