Coach Robbie Deans told the squad that Carter would replace Aaron Mauger as McCaw's deputy when the Canterbury outfit resumed pre-season training on Monday.
Carter told The Christchurch Press: "In my break, all I wanted to do was come back and play for the Crusaders and put in the hard yards to get in the right shape for another big campaign.
"In the last couple of years I've taken a bit more of a leadership role in helping run the team. It's good being named vice-captain, but nothing's going to change from my end. I'll just continue to work hard on my game and do what's best for the team.
"Although we've lost a lot of players we've still got a lot experience there."
Deans said Carter was 'a logical replacement' for former All Black Aaron Mauger, the Crusaders' long-term vice-captain now playing for English club Leicester.
Carter may also move into Mauger's inside centre role to allow Stephen Brett a run at fly-half in 2008.