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Wilson leaves ice early, Caps waiting for Richards


Wilson leaves ice early, Caps waiting for Richards

News, notes and quotes as the Capitals returned to Kettler on Tuesday in preparation for Thursday’s home game against the Vancouver Canucks:

Injury updates: Caps right wing Tom Wilson left the ice just before practice after tweaking a lower body injury. Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Wilson “didn’t want to aggravate it” so he left the ice and “should be fine.”

Stan Galiev took Wilson’s spot on a third line with Jason Chimer and Zach Sill.

Defenseman John Carlson (lower body) and center Jay Beagle (hand surgery) skated before practice. Carlson has missed the past eight games.  

“When he’s ready we’ll put him in,” Trotz said. “He hasn’t practiced with us, so he’s a ways away.”

Richards timetable: Mike Richards participated in his first full practice at Kettler, centering a fourth line with left wing Brooks Laich and right wing Michael Latta, who has recovered from his upper body injury.

Trotz said Richards will not play on Thursday but would like to see him in the lineup before the NHL All-Star break begins on Jan. 28. The Capitals have seven games before the break, so sometime next week (Tuesday in Columbus or Friday against Anaheim) seems like a reasonable start date.

Richards said he’s starting to get his legs under him and his hands are coming back, but called himself “a work in progress.”

Richards has not played an NHL game since last April. He said he would not “fight” the Capitals if they want him to play a game or two in AHL Hershey, but that won’t be determined until he’s closer to game shape.

Ovi congrats: Alex Ovechkin said his phone had a lot of activity Sunday night and Monday as he received congratulatory texts and phone calls for his 500th and 501st NHL goals.  

"Lots of phone calls, lots of messages," Ovechkin said. "It’s pretty big. Everybody is happy for me and my family. It’s huge in Russia as well."

Jason Chimera, who assisted on Ovechkin's milestone goal, said the Caps' 30-year-old captain owes him nothing for getting him the puck. 

"I think I owe him a lot more than anything," Chimera said. "You see so many goals and so many cool moments. It's just nice to be a part of it. It was a special night."

Chimera said just seeing Ovechkin's joy is infectious.

"He's got no tooth in that smile," Chimera said. "And if you know Alex, he's just as happy when anyone else scores a goal. He's the first one to celebrate. You can't help but smile when he smiles."

Carey sent back to Hershey: After playing in two games with the Caps as a replacement for suspended forward Marcus Johansson, Paul Carey was sent back to the Hershey Bears. That gives the Caps 14 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies, one shy of the NHL’s 23-man roster limit.

RELATED: Ovechkin taking his chances on Powerball, too 

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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 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 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


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.