Last summer, the Washington Capitals were reportedly quite upset to have lost star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who despite being acquired at the trade deadline in return for a 2017 first-round pick, forward Zach Sanford, a conditional 2019 draft pick and minor league forward Brad Malone, ended up signing with the New York Rangers in July as a free agent.
So what would they head in the same direction when it comes to pending unrestricted free agent John Carlson? The star defenseman has yet to come to terms on a new contract with the Caps, and recently found out that Washington made extravagant moves in hopes of landing two coveted defenders during the trade deadline, Ottawa Senators' Erik Karlsson and Ryan McDonagh, who was shipped from New York to the Tampa Bay Lightning, in return of a hefty packages of players, prospects and picks.
“I think they were a lot louder than we know,” explained NHL insider Elliotte Friedman during a Friday appearance on NHL Network, per FanRag Sports. “Ultimately they were quiet, they didn’t make any moves, but they did something behind the scenes. They definitely made a pitch on Ryan McDonagh, and they definitely made a pitch on Erik Karlsson."
The question remains: how would the Caps have managed to do this, landing one of one star defenseman with significant salaries, with the cap space they current have, and the one they need to resign Carlson in the summer? McDonagh has a contract carrying a $4.7 million cap hit, while Karlsson, who remains with Ottawa at least for now, counts for $6.5 million against the cap.
“Now, if you look at their cap setup – I have no idea how they were going to do it. Sometimes you kind of figure out what the return is. I’m not so sure here. But I do think, especially after Pittsburgh got Derick Brassard, that on the Saturday they made pitches for both McDonagh and Karlsson.
“They didn’t get it done, but I think they tried.”
How is Carlson supposed to feel about this trade attempt? The defenseman’s six-year, $23.8 million contract that he originally signed in 2012 expires this July. If Carlson does not re-sign, he could become one of the most popular players on the free-agent market.
“There have been zero talks — in the formal sense –between John Carlson and the Washington Capitals on a new contract,” TSN insider Bob McKenzie had revealed at the end of December.
“He’s obviously been a hugely important part of their blue line this year especially when Matt Niskanen was out of the lineup for a prolonged period of time,” McKenzie explained further. “Carlson was playing ridiculous minutes – the most in the National Hockey League. Those minutes have been backed off, which is better, I think, for him longterm in terms of not getting worn down and playing at his peak efficiency. So how those talks go between now and Christmas for example, might dictate as to whether or not those talks get traction or whether both sides pull back and say, ‘Hey, this is also something that could be done before the end of the regular season or at the regular season.’ Or of course the possibility exists that John Carlson could go to market as one of the primary unrestricted free agent defensemen in the summer of 2018.”
Carlson could potentially be looking for a contract that pays him up to six million a year or more, making him one of the 20 highest-paid defensemen in the league, but what if he tries to land it on the free-agent market...
The Caps then might have to go after Karlsson after all...