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Which players are hurt most by NHL lockout?

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Which players are hurt most by NHL lockout?

When Capitals center Brooks Laich caught a flight to Switzerland for a chance to play for the Floten Flyers of the Swiss League, his departure raised a thorny question.

With more and more elite NHL players signing contracts in Europe the count rose to 79 on Wednesday - what will become of the third- and fourth-line NHL players who cant find jobs during the NHL lockout?

The Capitals have a handful of players who fall into that category.

Forward Matt Hendricks, 31, literally fought his way into the NHL and is in the final year of a contract that pays him 800,000.

Forward Joey Crabb, 29, has spent much of his career working under one-year, two-way contracts and he just recently signed his first one-way deal worth 950,000.

Defenseman Jack Hillen, 26, is in a similar situation, agreeing to his first one-way contract, a 650,000 deal with the Caps, only to be shut out of a chance to earn money in the AHL.

And then theres forward Wojtek Wolski, 26, who was hoping this would be his rebound season in the NHL after signing a one-year 600,000 contract with the Caps.

All four players are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents after this season and missing an entire season could seriously threaten their chances of getting NHL jobs next year.

So how do those third- and fourth-line players feel when they see teammates like Alex Ovechkin, Michal Neuvirth and Laich signing contracts overseas?

Thats who were trying to help with the lockout, said veteran winger Jason Chimera, who has two years and 3.5 million remaining on his deal with the Caps. If the salary cap goes down, a lot of third- and fourth-line guys might be casualties.

But if the NHL lockout goes an entire season, those same players might find themselves beaten out of jobs by players who were able to play in the AHL or Europe this season.

The longer were locked out the more of a chance that guys will go play in Europe, Hendricks said. For us to sit out and not play an entire season is crazy. We cant afford to do that.

Jay Beagle echoed those sentiments. He recently signed a three-year, one-way contract with the Capitals that pays him 700,000 this season and 1 million in each of the following two seasons.

Obviously, if it goes a long time Ill have to think about doing something else, Beagle said. When that time comes Ill start thinking about that.

Representatives from the NHL and the players union are expected to meet on Friday, but the core economic issues that separate the two sides are not being discussed.

Hopefully, labor talks start getting better, Beagle said. Thats what all of us are looking for. But if things stay the way they are right now, I dont know how long you can last with six or seven guys coming out and one goalie.

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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 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.

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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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