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Tom Wilson could face suspension after Caps victory over Ottawa

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Tom Wilson could face suspension after Caps victory over Ottawa

Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators Wednesday night at Verizon Center:

How it happened: Michael Latta enjoyed the first two-point game of his NHL career, scoring the game’s first goal on a breakaway and assisting on John Carlson’s sixth goal of the season on a nice feed from Justin Williams. Braden Holtby turned aside 26 of 27 shots to earn his league-leading 20th victory. Holtby improved to 12-0-1 in his last 13 starts.

What it means: The Caps (22-6-2, 46 points) moved three points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens atop the Eastern Conference and four points ahead of the New York Rangers in the Metropolitan Division. The Caps are two points behind the NHL-leading Dallas Stars, who have played one more game. 

Wilson may face suspension: Caps right wing Tom Wilson received a match penalty and automatic review by the league on a hit he made on Curtis Lazar with 4:40 remaining in the third period. Wilson was tracking back into his defensive zone when he lined up Lazar with a shoulder-to-shoulder hit. The puck was on Lazar’s stick at the time of the check, but it was a blindside hit and Wilson could face suspension. The Senators scored on the power play when Bobby Ryan pushed a rebound past Braden Holtby with 4:14 to play, but Holtby shut the door in the final minutes.

Latta offense: Latta was a healthy scratch in each of the Caps’ previous two games. This is the first time in his NHL career that he has scored more than one goal in a season. He once netted 52 goals and 119 points in 73 games with the Waterloo Wolves. Latta’s breakaway goal 14:06 into the first period was a beauty. Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov banked a hard pass off the boards and Latta won a race to the puck, keeping his head up and beating Andrew Hammond with a wrist shot just under the crossbar.

MORE CAPITALS: LEONSIS WILLING TO TAKE RISK ON WORLD CUP

Thanks, Willy: Justin Williams played a big role in the Caps’ second goal, which came on a delayed penalty with 5:43 gone in the second period. Williams drew a hooking call, but maintained control of the puck and patiently waited to find Carlson with a cross-ice pass. Carlson one-timed a snap shot past Hammond for his sixth goal of the season.

About time: Hammond lost in regulation for the first time this season (2-1-2) and for just the second time in his NHL career (22-2-4). Hammond had missed the previous 15 games because of a concussion and took a hard shot by Carlson off his mask about 4 minutes into the game.

Approaching milestone: Jason Chimera played in his 899th NHL game. Nicklas Backstrom remains one point shy of 600. His next point will move him past Michal Pivonka and into fourth on the Caps’ all-time list. 

How ‘bout them old/new threads?: The Caps broke out their new third jerseys, which looked very much like the ones they wore in 1993-94. The jerseys feature blue and white stars on the sleeves and pant legs, along with very cool plain white shoulders.

Look ahead: The Caps have an 11:30 a.m. practice scheduled for Thursday. They return to action Friday night at home against the Lightning, who are also expected to practice at Kettler on Thursday. They finish up their pre-Christmas schedule with visits to Manhattan on Sunday and Raleigh on Monday for games against the Rangers and Hurricanes. 

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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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