While his teammates were putting themselves through Barry Trotz’s grueling fitness skate at Friday’s first day of training camp, center Nicklas Backstrom (offseason hip surgery) and defenseman Brooks Orpik (offseason wrist surgery) skated on their own, waiting to be fully cleared by the team’s medical staff.
While Orpik is expected to be cleared in time to play in the Capitals’ seven-game exhibition season, Backstrom’s timetable is far more nebulous, with the Caps’ Oct. 10 season opener still very much in doubt.
“It’s hard to say,” Backstrom said Friday. “I can’t really tell you a date. As I said before, I’m feeling good, no setbacks, and that’s a good sign. I’m starting to skate harder and harder now. It’s just getting the legs going and the strength in my leg. That’s what it’s all about. Hopefully, it will get better in a couple weeks and we’ll go from there. We’ll take it day by day.”
After playing in all 82 games last season and leading the NHL with 60 assists, Backstrom underwent arthroscopic surgery on May 27 and began skating with Capitals conditioning coach Mark Nemish on Sept. 3. He said that while others may be preoccupied by his availability for the Caps’ season opener, he’s not, even though he’s played in every Capitals regular season game the past three seasons.
“I would love to play in the premier, but who knows?” Backstrom said. “I don’t know myself. We’ll see how I progress in the next couple weeks. I hope to be ready, but you never know.”
Backstrom said a determining factor for when he is cleared to play is the amount of soreness he feels after heavy skating. Once that soreness dissipates, he expects to be cleared.
“It could be opening night. I could miss five games, I could miss 10 games. I don’t know. It’s all about how I’m doing and I guess the only one who can answer that is me. And I don’t know myself yet.”
Check out all the updates from Friday's media day here.
DALLAS—The Caps are “really close” to signing star defenseman John Carlson to a long-term extension, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday night.
“We’re getting closer,” MacLellan said following the first round of the NHL Draft. “Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close.”
Earlier in the day, the Caps cleared significant space under the salary cap ceiling by trading Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round draft pick (47th overall).
That space will now be used to lock up Carlson, who could become the best defenseman on the open market if he were to reach it.
MacLellan met with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, here on Thursday night.
MacLellan did not divulge any figures, but it’s expected that Carlson’s new contract could come in at eight years and $8 million per—or perhaps a bit more.
He earned $4 million last season.
Carlson had a career year in 2017-18 and was critical during the Caps' run to the Stanley Cup. He led all defensemen in the regular season with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists). The 28-year-old also skated a career-high 24:47 per game.
MacLellan has long said that re-signing Carlson was the Caps’ top priority this offseason. And now it looks like that could happen within days, assuming the talks do not hit any snags.
“We’re going to do our best to sign John,” MacLellan said. “We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year. We’ve had discussions. We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”
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The last time the Washington Capitals had a first-round draft pick, they selected a WHL defenseman. They did not go off script on Friday.
With the last pick of the first round, selecting for the first time as defending Stanley Cup champions, the Capitals selected Alexander Alexeyev, a left-shooting, two-way defenseman from St. Petersburg.
Alexeyev, 18, certainly boasts NHL size at 6' 4", 196 pounds. He currently plays for Red Deer in the WHL, a junior league that has become a major pipeline for the Capitals. In his second season with Red Deer, he tallied 37 points in 45 games.
The NHL Central Scouting's rankings list Alexeyev as the 22nd best North American skater of the draft. TSN projects him to be a top-four, two-way defenseman.
Analyst Craig Button described Alexeyev as a "Smart, effective defenceman who moves the puck, plays with a calm and doesn't make things complicated for himself."
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