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Barry Trotz says decision to pull Braden Holtby was based on play, not injury

Barry Trotz says decision to pull Braden Holtby was based on play, not injury

It's pretty rare to see a bad game from Braden Holtby. It's so rare, in fact, that when Philipp Grubauer skated on to start the second period on Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs in place of Holtby, you could be forgiven for wondering if Holtby had suffered an injury in the opening frame.

According to Barry Trotz, however, that was not the case.

"I didn't think Holts was really strong today," Trotz said after the Caps' 6-5 win. "... I just felt he was battling the puck today."

When asked specifically to clarify if the move was made due to injury, Trotz said it was not.

RELATED: Caps rally big, finish with Ovechkin OT winner

The reason for the confusion stems from just how unusual it is to see Holtby get the hook. Tuesday marked the first time this season the Caps' netminder was pulled. You have to go all the way back to March 20, 2016 for the last time in which he was yanked.

But clearly Holtby was not having his best night for the Caps as he allowed three goals in just eight shots in the first period. While Trotz absolved him of blame for the third goal, a shot by Connor Carrick that found the tape of Frederik Gauthier for the tip in that Holtby missed due to a screen from his own defensemen, it was clear a change was needed.

"[Holtby's] been so good for so long for us, that I just wanted to change the momentum and see if we can get some momentum off of that," Trotz said, "And I thought Gruby came in and did a decent job."

MORE CAPITALS: One stat that illustrates Ovechkin's dominance

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After signing mammoth extension, Capitals' John Carlson weighs in on Todd Reirden and Michal Kempny

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After signing mammoth extension, Capitals' John Carlson weighs in on Todd Reirden and Michal Kempny

With the ink dried on his new contract, John Carlson said Monday morning that he wouldn’t mind seeing two other key cogs in the Caps’ championship run — Todd Reirden and Michal Kempny — get new deals, as well.

“I think guys have a lot of respect for Todd, and if that’s the case, then he’s going to do a great job,” Carlson said of Reirden, who is expected to interview with GM Brian MacLellan for the vacant head coaching position this week.

Carlson credited Reirden’s tutelage with helping him become a top defenseman in the game.

“From the moment that Barry [Trotz] and Todd got here, obviously Todd’s had the D, so I dealt more directly with him in terms of the little things and nuances of the game and just kind of formulating a plan to get better and how to achieve the goals I wanted to achieve,” Carlson said.

MacLellan has indicated that Reirden is the leading candidate to replace Trotz and, if things go well in the interview, he’ll get the job.

Although Carlson didn’t want to say much about the process, he did praise Reirden for his Xs and Os, his communication skills and his ability to get different personalities on the same page.

“I thought he was crucial for my career,” Carlson said, “and he just changed a few things [about] how I looked at the game, changed a few things with the D that I think really benefited everyone on D, and made it pretty clear what he expected of us and allowed us to go out there and do the rest.”

Carlson added: “I think he did a great job taking everybody for being different people and seeing things different ways. I just think he seemed to connect with everyone’s different personalities. I think he makes you look at the game a little bit differently. ... I think he’s been big for my career.”

Carlson also said that hiring Reirden would help the defending Stanley Cup champs pick up where they left off.

“I think that would be a lot easier of a transition,” he added.

As for re-signing Kempny, Carlson hopes his defensive partner also gets a new deal. After struggling to gain a foothold in Chicago’s lineup earlier this season, Kempny, 27, found a home skating alongside No. 74 after being acquired by Washington in February.

“I thought he was a great player,” Carlson said. “He made a huge impact on our team. When he got here, I thought we kind of started to play our best hockey maybe 10, 15 games after he got here, and then I thought he played awesome in the playoffs. He’s a great player, a great defender and he can skate. So that’s pretty much textbook what you want to have on your team and certainly, I think we play well together. That’s from my standpoint.”

Kempny can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

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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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