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Capitals replenish their defensive depth

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Capitals replenish their defensive depth

Aside from Madison Bowey, who was taken by the Capitals in the second round of the 2013 NHL draft and is expected to turn pro and play for the AHL Hershey Bears next season, the Capitals’ cupboard on the blue line was rather thin heading into the 2015 NHL draft.

On Saturday the Capitals’ amateur scouting staff addressed those needs, trading up to take 18-year-old Swiss defensemen Jonas Siegenthaler in the second round, then drafting the Regina Pats’ defense pairing of Connor Hobbs, 18, and Colby Williams, 20, in the fifth and sixth rounds.

“All things being equal, I was really happy we had the opportunity to put a little more young defensemen into our system,” said Ross Mahoney, the Capitals’ assistant general manager and director of amateur scouting. “I was very happy with that.”

After making Russian goaltender Ilya Samsonov the first goalie taken in this year’s draft, the Caps traded their third- and fourth-round picks to take Siegenthaler, a burly, 6-foot-2, 220-pound defenseman who, as a 17-year-old, played for his home town of Zurich in the Swiss League, picking up three assists and a team-high 39 penalty minutes in 41 games.

“Playing with men [in the Swiss League] is a real advantage,” Mahoney said. “You’re playing against guys who could be 30 years old. It might be [against] good American League players that have gone back to Europe to play, or players who have played NHL games.”

Siegenthaler also represented Switzerland in the 2015 Four Nations Under-20 Tournament and the 2015 World Junior Championships, then went four rounds in the Swiss League playoffs with Zurich, where he took regular defensive shifts and killed penalties.  

Mahoney compared Siegnthaler to Caps stay-at-home defenseman Brooks Orpik.

“Quite a similar style at the same age,” Mahoney said. “A two-way defenseman who’s very strong, physical.”

Mahoney, who is from the Saskatchewan capital of Regina, said he was happy to take a pair of Pats with the Caps’ fifth and sixth picks.

Hobbs, a right-handed defenseman, began last season with the Medicine Hat Tigers, but was traded to the Pats in mid-season and was paired with Williams. At 6-foot, 187 pounds, Hobbs is known for his first-pass ability and his hard shot.

As an overage junior at 20 years old, Williams was passed over in last year’s draft, and Mahoney said that may have motivated him to have such a strong season in Regina, where he recorded 11 goals, 30 assists, 95 penalty minutes and a plus-45 rating.

He also added three goals, five assists and 12 penalty minutes in nine playoff games.  

“Colby took a big leap forward,” Mahoney said. “He’s a real character kid. I think when you’re 19 [now 20] like Williams you’ve been through the draft, you want to prove to all of us that you should have been drafted. Williams did that this year.”

Caps fans can get their first look at the team’s newest defensemen when they are expected to take part in the club’s development camp from July 7-11 at Capitals Kettler Iceplex.

MORE CAPITALS: Capitals still looking for trading partner

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

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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Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick

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Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick

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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