For the first time in a few years, substantial changes are coming to the Capitals’ roster.
John Carlson is fully aware of that fact—and he’s ready to embrace the turnover.
“It’s good,” Carlson said Friday. “You hate to see friends and teammates and great players leave, but it’s also great to get some fresh faces, some young guys to bring up the energy all the time.”
The veteran defenseman added: “I think it’s going to be good for us, so I’m excited for it. It adds a different dynamic and it can help everybody.”
Indeed, the spots occupied by Karl Alzner, Nate Schmidt, Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson and Daniel Winnik will now be filled by younger, less expensive players as the Caps shoehorn their roster under the $75 million salary cap ceiling.
“I’m kinda used to it by now,” Carlson said. “No team ever stays the same. Well, maybe [last] year. A lot of them were guys that had been here for my whole career almost. So in that respect, it’s tough to see them leave.”
Carlson made his comments at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, where he's been skating and working out in recent weeks. He was the only NHL player on the ice Friday—Alzner, now a Canadien, has made some appearances as well—though the group is expected to grow in the coming days as players trickle back into town.
Training camp opens in mid-September.
All told, the Caps figure to have three new forwards and a new defenseman or two in the lineup when the season opens Oct. 5 in Ottawa.
Depending on how things shake out, in fact, it’s possible one of those youngsters will be paired up with Carlson.
When Carlson broke into the NHL, there were a handful of solid pros in Caps’ room, like Mike Knuble, for him to learn from. Now, nine years into his career, Carlson says he’s looking forward to returning the favor.
“Last year we didn’t have many young guys,” he said. “It’ll be the first taste of the NHL for a lot of them. You got to show them the ropes. People did that for me. People helped me along the way. Whether it’s forwards or Ds, it doesn’t matter, it’s about showing them how to have success.”
Carlson added: “I think we have tremendous leaders in the locker room. There’s a lot of guys that have played a lot of games. …I know the quality of the people we have and I know they’ll step up and make sure everyone is comfortable from day one.”
In addition to the potential benefits of injecting youth into the lineup, there’s one more reason Carlson is looking forward to September: he hopes the buzz and anticipation of a new season will help him put last spring’s playoff disappointment in the rearview, finally.
“You still think about it all the time,” Carlson said of the second round loss to the Penguins. “You run into people, talk to people, it always kinda comes up. There’s no hiding from it. But once camp starts, you really just have to shift your focus and make sure that what we’re doing now is going to set us up for the end of this year. You can’t be looking back like that.”
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