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AHL may provide only pro hockey for months

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AHL may provide only pro hockey for months

With no guarantee that the NHL season will start on-time, the American Hockey League may provide local fans with one of the few outlets for live professional hockey in the months ahead.
On Friday, the AHL released the complete schedule for its 77th campaign with each of the leagues 30 teams playing 76 games (38 at home; 38 on the road).
The Washington Capitals top minor league affiliate, the Hershey Bears, open the season with road games in Syracuse (Sat. Oct. 13) and Binghamton (Fri. Oct. 19) before the Home Opener at Giant Center against Rochester (Sat. Oct. 20).
In May the Capitals and Bears announced a renewal in their affiliation through the 2013-14 season. The clubs have been affiliated in each of the last seven years, with the Bears making the playoffs each season and winning three Calder Cups along the way in 2006, 2009 and 2010.
Should the start of the NHL season de delayed, hockey fans in the D.C. area may want to mark their calendars. Beginning with the Oct. 20 Home Opener, the Bears will play back-to-back weekend home games in three out four weeks in October and November (Oct.20-21, Nov. 10-11 and Nov. 17-18).
Regardless of when the NHL season may begin, the Bears will visit D.C. for the first time since 1979 when they take on the Norfolk Admirals at Verizon Center (Thurs. Dec. 6).
Five other NHL arenas are expected to host AHL games this season including Montreals Bell Centre, Philadelphias Wells Fargo Center, Raleighs PNC Arena, St. Pauls Xcel Energy Center and Torontos Air Canada Center.
Detroit will also host an AHL game this season when the Red Wings top minor league affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins take on the Toronto Marlies at Comerica Park as part of the Hockeytown Winter Festival leading up to the 2013 NHL Winter Classic.
The game at Comerica Park will be one of two outdoor games in the AHL with the other featuring the Bears. The Bears will host the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins in the Capital BlueCross AHL Outdoor Classic at Hershey Park Stadium, Sunday January 20, 2013.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said that if a new collective bargaining agreement is not in place by Sept. 15 the NHL will have its second work stoppage in eight years.
As was the case during the 1994-95 and 2004-05 lockouts, NHL players who are still on their entry level contracts would be eligible to play in the AHL. Three Capitals fall under this category in Braden Holtby, Marcus Johansson and Dmitry Orlov.

If there is an NHL lockout, would your interest in the AHL change? Would you attend an AHL game to get your live hockey fix? Use the comment section below to discuss.

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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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