Capitals

Quick Links

Will the Shattenkirk trade force the Caps into another deadline deal?

Will the Shattenkirk trade force the Caps into another deadline deal?

With the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday, the question surrounding the Capitals was whether the team would make a move or stand pat. On Monday we got our answer as the team acquired defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and prospect goalie Pheonix Copley from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for forwards Zach Sanford, Brad Malone and a first and a conditional draft pick(s).

But by addressing the only real weaknesses on the roster, the Caps may have exposed another flaw they could potentially try to address before Wednesday's trade deadline.

With only two right-shooting defensemen in Matt Niskanen and John Carlson, this was a clear area of need for the team. Because of the struggles of the team's two netminders in the AHL, Washington was also in need of a third goalie in case of an injury to Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer. You can read more on the team's needs heading into the trade deadline here.

RELATED: Capitals land defenseman Kevn Shattenkirk

The team addressed both of those needs Monday with Shattenkirk and Copley, but it came at a price. Losing draft picks will have future implications, but the loss of Sanford weakens the team in the present.

Heading into the postseason, if healthy, it's not hard to guess what the Caps' forward lines would be:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Daniel Winnik - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

But what if there was an injury? Prior to the hand injury suffered by Andre Burakovsky, the Caps were using the minimum number of forwards and cycling through players from Hershey for road games. That's not an ideal setup for the playoffs.

The plan was thought to be for the team to carry Sanford and Jakub Vrana as the two depth forwards for the postseason. Pinning your hopes on two rookies to step into a playoff situation when called upon is not without risk. Now, however, the Caps don't even have that.

There's a difference between plugging a player in the lineup in the regular season and in the playoffs. The regular season offers an opportunity to give players like Riley Barber and Chandler Stephenson valuable experience. The team can feel comfortable plugging in Zach Sill or Liam O'Brien for a few games. But when it comes to the playoffs in which every game counts, every win brings you one step closer to the Stanley Cup and every loss brings the season closer to an end, the team needs more options than a handful of green prospects and veteran AHLers.

Vrana is projected to be a top-six talent and is starting to hit his NHL potential. He also, however, is prone to turnovers and needs to work on how he plays without the puck. He is a good option for Washington in the playoffs, but for him to be the only option is an enormous risk.

The Shattenkirk deal shows the Caps are all-in this year, but there's one more move they may need to make. With Sanford now gone, the Caps will need to act fast to bring in more forward depth because, besides Vrana, there's not a whole lot of options within the organization.

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz admits Ovechkin was "off" during Saturday's game

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 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.

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: