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Prospect Report: A big week for Chandler Stephenson


Prospect Report: A big week for Chandler Stephenson

Hershey update: 1-2-0-0, 7th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 0-2-0-0

It didn't take long for Chandler Stephenson to make his way back to the NHL. The young center was one of the last players cut from the roster during training camp, but was recalled to Washington on Thursday and made his NHL debut that night against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Stephenson has now played in three games and, though he has yet to record a point, he has certainly impressed and helped improve a fourth line that lacked cohesion in the Caps' first two contests.

Hershey certainly seems to be missing their young center as the Bears dropped two games in Portland. Despite the rough weekend, both Jakub Vrana and Riley Barber continue to impress. Vrana scored the first regular-season AHL goal of his career on Saturday while Barber tallied another goal on Sunday and now has three in as many games.

RELATED: Roenick sizes up Ovechkin's chances as a football player

Other prospect notes:

Tyler Lewington and Vitek Vanecek's ECHL careers have gotten off to a rocky start. In his first two games, Lewington is a minus-3. Vanecek got his first start on Sunday against the Reading Royals. He made 28 saves, but allowed six goals in a 6-0 romp.

Obviously, that's not a great start, but there's no need to panic. This was Vanecek's North America debut and that is a transition that some players, especially goalies, tend to struggle with. He also did not get much help from his teammates as the Stingrays were outshot 34-20.

Notre Dame opened its season with a two-game series against Penn State. Forward Thomas DiPauli recorded a goal and an assist for the Irish.

Forward Shane Gersich missed North Dakota's last two games on Friday and Saturday due to an undisclosed injury. He is listed as day-to-day.

MORE CAPITALS: How many points will Alex Ovechkin have by the end of his career?

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals


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 the 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 in 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 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 also 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


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.