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John Carlson is trying not to think about his contract...but he is

John Carlson is trying not to think about his contract...but he is

There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson this season. There is always uncertainty when a player enters a contract year, but now add in the fact that Carlson has spent training camp not knowing who is partner is going to be.

That’s a problem considering how important this season is for Carlson plus how much the Caps will rely on him.

“Oh yeah,” Carlson said Tuesday when asked if he had thought about his contract, “But I'm not really going to think too much into that. The season hasn't even started yet.”

By now you have probably heard about how the Capitals’ roster is going to take a step back this season. With salary cap constraints due to the fact that the team had to re-sign several young players to bigger contracts plus the Vegas expansion draft, Washington saw a lot of key players depart in the offseason.

RELATED: WHAT DOES WEDNESDAY'S LINEUP TELL US ABOUT THE CAPS' ROSTER?

While the loss of Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson hurts the offense, the real effect of the offseason’s losses can be seen on the defense.

Here is what the Capitals defensive pairs looked like heading into training camp:

Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
??? - John Carlson
Brooks Orpik - ???
Taylor Chorney

While there are a handful of promising prospects competing for those open spots, the problem is the second pair. There is a hole in the team’s top four and the Capitals don’t have a clear top-four defenseman to plug it with. Whoever does play there, whether it be a depth veteran like Chorney or a rookie like Bowey, that player is going to lean very heavily on Carlson.

“[Carlson’s] a good enough player to adjust to whoever his partner is,” head coach Barry Trotz said on Tuesday after practice, “And I think he's mature enough to bring his partner along too no matter who he's playing with, if he's a stay at home guy or a puck-moving, advanced guy who gets up the ice and doesn't have maybe as much in his game in order like [Dmitry Orlov] was a few years ago. We'll see where that plays, but Carly's a good defenseman and whoever we put him with he should be a real good pair for us.”

So in a contract year, Carlson will be relied upon to carry the second defensive pair with a partner he does not know yet. That is a lot for one player to deal with, but not totally unexpected.

“We talked about possibilities for him in the summer and we'll play it out,” Trotz said. “But he understands the situation. ... I think he understood where we are as a team, organization, the cap situation this summer.”

Carlson said he is not worried about who his partner might be and is instead focusing on on his own game instead.

“I think it just kind of makes you focus more on what you can't control versus what you can. We've got a lot of talented players. If there wasn't those talented players than maybe I'd have a different opinion, but just one of those things you'll wait and see and wait to hear what it will be.”

For now, Aaron Ness looks like the frontrunner to earn the spot on the second pair playing next to Carlson. The two have practiced together as a pair at practice both on Monday and Tuesday.

Carlson stressed that it is hard to get a feel for a defensive pairing from practice and that the coaches were unlikely to consult with him about it saying, “It's never been really like that. I'm sure they might ask for an opinion here or there, but other than that I don't make any decisions. That's all what they think is best for the team and that's their job.”

Even so, he was effusive in his praise of Ness.

“He's a great player,” Carlson said. “I've been saying that for however long he's been here.”

Regardless of who he plays with, the team needs this to be a big season for Carlson and so does he. A new contract is on the line.

MORE CAPITALS: BARRY TROTZ DECLARES HE WILL SUPPORT HIS PLAYERS IF THEY PROTEST THE ANTHEM

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2018 NHL Draft: Caps add 7 prospects, 4 from WHL

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USA TODAY Sports

2018 NHL Draft: Caps add 7 prospects, 4 from WHL

The Caps made seven selections in the 2018 Draft this weekend. The group featured three defensemen, three forwards and a goalie. Interestingly, a couple of the picks have fathers who enjoyed lengthy NHL careers.

Meet the newest prospects:

1st round, 31st overall: D Alexander Alexeyev, WHL, 6'4", 196 pounds

The Caps' first first-round pick sine 2016, Alexeyev is a smart two-way defenseman with good size.

Read more on him here.

2nd round, 46th overall (from Florida, via New Jersey): D Martin Fehervary, Allsvenskan (Sweden), 6'2", 194 pounds

A physical style defenseman who is very strong in his own end, but does not have much offensive upside. Sort of a throwback style of play which makes him a surprise pick this high.


2nd round, 47th overall (From Colorado): F Kody Clark, OHL, 6'1", 179 pounds

Kody Clark boasts an NHL pedigree as the son of Wendel Clark, a first-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs who recorded 330 goals and 564 career points in 763 NHL games.


3rd round, 93rd overall: F Riley Sutter, WHL, 6'3", 203 pounds

Riley Sutter also boasts a strong NHL pedigree as the son of Run Sutter and nephew of Darryl Sutter.

Riley is a power forward who played alongside Caps prospect Garrett Pilon on the Everett Silvertips in the WHL and recorded 53 points in 68 games last season.


4th round, 124th overall: G Mitchell Gibson, NAHL, 6'1", 187 pounds

A Harvard commit, Gibson posted a 1.59 GAA and .935 save percentage in the NAHL last season.


6th round, 161st overall (from Vancouver): D Alex Kannok-Leipert, WHL, 5'11", 194 pounds

The Caps certainly saw something they liked in Kannok-Leipert as they traded up from 186 to get him. That pick, along with a sixth-round pick in 2019, went to Vancouver.


7th round, 217th overall: F Eric Florchuk, WHL, 6'2", 174 pounds

Florchuk was taken with the last pick of the draft.

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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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