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Oates has a few tricks for Ovechkin

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Oates has a few tricks for Ovechkin

If Adam Oates has a plan to re-invent Alex Ovechkin he wasnt about to share it on his first full day as coach of the Washington Capitals.

But if his work with Ilya Kovalchuk in New Jersey is any indication, Oates is hoping a few tweaks will help elevate Ovechkin to the kind of impact player he was two years ago.

For starters, he plans on using Ovechkins powerful shot from the point on the power play. And there is a pretty good chance he wont bench him after the Capitals take their first lead of the season.

But Oates believes that after seeing Ovechkin held to a career-low 32 goals last season and a career-low 65 points this season, his career can be rejuvenated.

The league gets better and better every year and theres not a lot of goal scoring anymore, Oates said.

I think the physical element of his game is unprecedented. I saw him play Boston and hes the only guy in the league who can take on guys like Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic and Dennis Seidenberg and have that physical impact.

I think hes a special player. In terms of adding a little bit to his game, I think I can. He's got to earn my trust as a coach first, along with the other guys. But even superstars have something to learn.

Oates is Ovechkins third coach in eight months and there was a groundswell following the departures of the previous two coaches that Ovechkin might have played at least a small role.

Ovechkin clearly was unhappy with his self-described role as a plumber under Dale Hunter and was moved to call Oates and congratulate him on getting the job as Capitals coach.

That was not lost on Oates.

It meant a lot, Oates said. He was very excited on the phone and I was very excited. I told him I was looking forward to coaching him and coaching this team. He seemed very enthusiastic.

Oates said he does not know Ovechkin as a person, but recognizes the impact he can have on a team when he channels his abundance of energy.

I dont know him other than to watch him, Oates said. My favorite quality about the man is that hes obviously every enthusiastic when he scores but when you watch his teammates score hes just as enthusiastic and when you watch that from the outside looking in thats a great quality.

It was at that point that Capitals general manager George McPhee interjected his own thoughts on the subject.

To finish Adams answer, McPhee quipped, Ovechkin still might have to dump it in and block a shot once in a while.

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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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