Capitals

Quick Links

Ross Mahoney: Recently re-signed Chritstian Djoos could compete for a spot on Caps

Ross Mahoney: Recently re-signed Chritstian Djoos could compete for a spot on Caps

CHICAGO—After spending the past two seasons honing his game in American Hockey League, Capitals prospect Christian Djoos could get the opportunity of a lifetime come September.

Djoos, who was re-signed on Thursday, is one of a handful of blue line prospects the Caps hope will compete for playing time in the NHL next season.

“His hockey IQ is extremely high,” assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said. “He has really good skill. He moves the puck really well. It was pretty evident by the points he put up this year in the American league.”

Djoos, a 22-year-old selected in the seventh round of the 2012 draft, did indeed put up big numbers playing for the Bears. In 66 games, he posted 13 goals and 58 points—the third highest total among AHL defensemen. The players who finished ahead of him—T.J. Brennan and Matt Taormina are longtime minor league vets.  

As impressive as Djoos' offensive production was, though, Mahoney and Co. are equally as intrigued by his ability to make smart decisions under pressure and quickly transition the puck from the backend.

“He’s really, really intelligent,” Mahoney said. “Sees the ice really well. Finds the open man. Can speed the game up, slow the game down.”

The one concern about Djoos—as it's always been—is his size and how it'll affect his ability to battle bigger NHL forwards in the corner and in front of the net. He’s listed at 6 feet, 164-pounds. For comparison’s sake, the lightest players on Washington's roster last season were backup goalie Philipp Grubauer (182 pounds) and wingers Justin Williams (188) and T.J. Oshie (189). The lightest defenseman was Taylor Chorney, who at 191-pounds was the only D under 200-pounds.

So, yeah, Djoos has some work to do in that department.  

“The challenge for him still is to get physically strong,” Mahoney said. “He’s getting there, so we’ll see after another good summer of training and see where he’s at come the fall.”

Depending on what happens in the free agent and trade markets, there figures to be an opportunity—or perhaps even two—waiting for a prospect like Djoos when the team convenes for training camp in mid-September.

After puck-moving defenseman Nate Schmidt was plucked by Las Vegas in the expansion draft on Wednesday night, the Caps were left with only four defensemen under contract (Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, John Carlson and Chorney) for next season. There’s also Dmitry Orlov, a restricted free agent the Caps intend to sign, but that still leaves a couple of openings.

Asked which blue line prospects are closest to being ready for NHL duty, Mahoney, in an interview with CSN on Thursday, named Djoos and his Hershey teammates Madison Bowey and Tyler Lewington.

“But,” Mahoney said, “it’s up to them to make sure they have a good summer of training, on and off the ice, and then come in and show the coaches that they deserve to be there.”

MORE CAPITALS: The Caps' 2017-2018 schedule

Quick Links

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

usatsi_10547307.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

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 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 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.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

usatsi_10360906.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

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.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: