Over the weekend there was plenty of optimism from the Washington Capitals that they would be able to finalize a long-term extension with unrestricted free agent John Carlson, especially after moving out Brooks Orpik’s $5.5MM cap hit in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche. Carlson is expected to receive a massive contract as the best defensemen scheduled to hit the market, and at one point Capitals GM Brian MacLellan even used the word “close” to describe the negotiations. Today, as the interview period starts for free agents, a deal has still not been announced between the two sides. Bob McKenzie of TSN checked in with Carlson’s agent Rick Curran, who commented on the situation:
As of the moment we do not have a deal in place with Washington and as permitted, I am getting/taking calls from other interested teams.
Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post also tweets that the Capitals have offered a multi-year contract to free agent defenseman Michal Kempny, another key player the team wants to get under contract before they actually hit the open market next Sunday. Carlson is the real target though, and his decision will likely have huge ramifications on the Capitals and the free agent market in general.
If there is any real chance that the 28-year old defenseman is heading to free agency, teams will have to hold onto their cap space in hopes of landing one of the biggest prizes. Carlson could demand in excess of $8MM per season, and for good reason—he’s coming off a career-high 68 points, which led all defenders in the NHL this year. He’s also been given more than 20 minutes of ice time in every season since he was a 20-year old rookie, and almost averaged 26 minutes a night in the team’s recent Stanley Cup run. Though he didn’t get a lot of support as a Conn Smythe winner, his performance in the playoffs could have been worth it. Carlson had 20 points in 24 games, while generating a whopping 80 shots on net.
Every team could use a player like Carlson on their blue line, but fitting him into their salary structure may be difficult. The next few days will be crucial for Washington as they try to convince him to stick around while others are offering him a chance elsewhere. If they can’t retain him, one has to wonder where else the Capitals look to use that cap space and if they’ll suddenly become a player for some of the other top names this summer.