When the Oilers emerged from the dressing room for the annual Joey Moss Cup final at Rexall Place Sunday, Carter filed out with Team Blue wearing an unfamiliar number amid distinctly different circumstances than the last time he donned Edmonton silks.
Carter, draped in jersey No. 33 instead of the No. 22 he was known for in his first stint with the Oilers as a first-line player, is at Edmonton's training camp on a professional tryout. He's looking to impress. Any line will do.
Times have changed.
"It really hasn't," says Carter, who got into town Saturday and made his first appearance at camp Sunday. "Whether you have a contract or not, you're trying to earn your spot.
"It doesn't matter how much money you're making. I don't think anybody goes into camp thinking, 'I can just go in there and slouch off and everything will be given to me,' whether you're on the first line or the fourth line."
Carter, 33, split 2006-07 between Columbus and Carolina scoring just 11 goals and 28 points in 64 games with the Blue Jackets and Hurricanes.
He was home in Los Angeles biding his time when agent Pat Brisson and Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe started talking.
With Lowe in need of scoring depth on the right side and Carter, who tallied 69-88-157 in 211 games with the Oilers in his first stop, willing to attend camp without a deal, talk became an invitation.
"Our position with Anson is there's nothing to lose," coach Craig MacTavish said.
"Bring him in here, have a look and make an assessment first-hand. I don't know whether I consider it a long shot. He's in tough, I think, around here, but we'll see what he has."
Carter had a career-high 60 points with the Oilers in 2001-02, and his 28 goals that season was his second-highest total in the NHL. He had 33 in Vancouver playing on a line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin in 2005-06.
"There's openings, but there's no promises," Carter said. "All I expect from Kevin (Lowe) and MacT is to be fair and honest with me.
"Whether it's the first two lines or the third or fourth line, just outline to me what you expect and I'll come and try to do that job."
The Toronto native has bounced around since the Oilers dealt him to the New York Rangers in March 2003 - he's played for eight NHL teams in all, including New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Columbus and Carolina since leaving Edmonton.
While there's certainly questions about how much Carter has left at this point in his career, he has managed 421 points in 674 games over 10 NHL seasons and the price is right.
"He had some good years for us here," said Shawn Horcoff. "A.C. brings a lot of experience.
"He struggled last year, obviously. I know that's not the way he wants to finish up his career. Two years ago, he scored 30 goals. If he can come back and give us some offence, that would be huge for us."
With Fernando Pisani out indefinitely with ulcerative colitis, Carter hopes to fit in the mix behind Ales Hemsky in a group of players that includes Robert Nilsson, Ryan O'Marra, Kyle Brodziak, Marc Pouliot and Zack Stortini.
"I can chip in, I know I can," Carter said. "You have to be in the right situation and you have to enjoy the environment you're in. The last time I was here in Edmonton I loved it."