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Ovechkin offered Alzner some advice ahead of Saturday's meeting

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Ovechkin offered Alzner some advice ahead of Saturday's meeting

Alex Ovechkin offered Karl Alzner a little advice in a recent text message conversation between the former teammates.

“He said, ‘Don’t block any of my shots,’” Alzner cracked Friday afternoon, moments after Montreal wrapped up its practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “We’ll see.”

Alzner, who signed with the Habs as a free agent this summer after spending nine seasons in Washington, will make his return to D.C. on Saturday at Capital One Arena.

So why were Alzer and Ovechkin texting one another late Thursday night? Alzner initiated the conversation, reaching out to Ovi after No. 8 scored a hat trick to rally the Caps for a 5-4 shootout victory in Ottawa.

Alzner wanted to congratulate him—and rekindle an old joke.

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“There was a little inside joke that we all had last year and when I saw that he had a hat trick [in] the first game of the year I texted him that joke and he replied laughing and told me he switched to CCM [sticks] and this and that,” Alzner said with a smile. “So it was brief, but it was just kind of funny. There’s some guys that I’m very close with, and it’s just natural that we’ll keep in touch.”

Alzner’s challenge Saturday night will be twofold: No. 1) he’ll need to keep his emotions in check as he returns to his first NHL home and No. 2) he could see some time marking Ovechkin’s line—something he’s done hundreds of times in practice but never in a game.

“You can’t let him shoot, that’s the main thing,” Alzner said, asked if there’s any secret to shutting Ovechkin down. “You watched yesterday. If you watch his goals, you just give him an inch and he can score. It’s crazy. With guys on him, it doesn’t matter. So that’s the main thing. If you take away his space, it can help. I’ve seen it work in the past, but I’ve also seen him fight through it. So it’s just manage it as best you can. I don’t think there’s one secret to him.”

RELATED: DESPITE SHOOTOUT WIN, CAPS DEFENSE STILL NEEDS WORK

Asked if he’s ever wondered what it would feel like to catch on Ovechkin one-timer off the shin pad, Alzner said he had thought about it—recently, in fact.

“I’m really happy he plays on the other side so I don’t have those one-timers on the PK and all that stuff,” Alzner joked. “I’ve went through all these things. So, yeah, I’ve thought about it. But when it comes down to it there’s other guys that shoot hard, too, and you still find a way to put yourself in front of it. So if it happens, it happens.”

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

On Friday, the Capitals shipped out Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to clear space on the salary cap for John Carlson's massive contract extension.

On Sunday night, Carlson signed on the dotted line. 

The 28-year-old became the latest core Cap to sign a long-term deal, inking an eight-year extension that will carry an $8 million average salary. 

His cap hit is now the second highest on the team—behind Ovechkin’s $9.538 million charge and just ahead of Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million hit.

With Carlson locked up, the defending Stanley Cup champion now has the majority of its core signed through at least the 2019-20 season. Among the players with at least two years remaining on their deals are forwards Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nickas Backstrom and Lars Eller, defensemen Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Carlson news did not come as a surprise.

The Caps wanted to keep him. Carlson, who makes his offseason home Washington, wanted to stay with the club that drafted him 27th overall in 2008. And on Friday night in Dallas, GM Brian MacLellan all but guaranteed that a deal was going to happen when he said, “We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

It ended up taking a little more than 24 hours, but in the end MacLellan got his D-man.

“John has been an exceptional and consistent player for our franchise and has blossomed into being one of the top defensemen in the NHL,” said MacLellan in a statement on Sunday. “Defenseman like John are a rare commodity in our League and, at 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime.”

Indeed, Carlson notched a career-high 15 goals and 53 assists last season, and his 68 points led all NHL defensemen. He also became the eighth defensemen in Caps’ history to record 60 points in a season and the first since Mike Green accomplished the feat in 2009-10. Meanwhile, Carlson’s average ice time (24:47) also marked a career high.

“As a right-handed defenseman, John plays in all key situations and has contributed greatly to our team’s success on the special teams,” MacLellan added. “We are pleased for both parties to have come to an agreement and for him to continue his great career as a Washington Capital.”

With Carlson under contract, the Caps now have a little more than $13 million in cap space underneath the $79.5 million ceiling, according to www.capfiendly.com. Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson and Jakub Jerabek are all unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

Carlson’s signing kicks off a big week for MacLellan.

In addition to negotiating with the free agents he hopes to retain, he’s expected to have a formal interview with associate coach Todd Reirden, who is the leading candidate to replace Barry Trotz as head coach.

So buckle up, there figure to be a few more important announcements in the coming days.

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

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