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Winter Classic cancellation puts season on brink

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Winter Classic cancellation puts season on brink

It had become the signature event of the National Hockey League. As big, if not bigger, than the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Now, the best idea ever invented by the NHL has been wiped off the schedule, just like every other regular season game in October and November.

Why so soon?

In advance of the Jan. 1 Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium the NHL was scheduled to make a $250,0000 payment toward the $3 million rental of Michigan Stadium on Friday.

Another $1 million was due on Dec. 1, the anticipated start date for the construction of the outdoor rink. The remaining majority would have been due on Dec. 28.

But was the timing of the cancellation also intended to place additional pressure on players to accept the terms of the proposal made by the owners back on Oct. 16? The players have said for the past two weeks that they are prepared to re-open talks, but on the condition that every aspect of the owners’ proposal is negotiable.

In the meantime, 115,000 spectators and millions of television viewers will miss out on what would have been another incredible outdoor event.

Last season’s Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia averaged 3.75 million viewers on NBC. By comparison, all six games of last spring's Stanley Cup Finals between the Kings and Devils averaged 3 million viewers.

And, according to NHL.com, the Winter Classic generated $330 million in new sponsorship revenue over the past three seasons.

In addition to the Winter Classic the NHL is also cancelling it’s award-winning "24/7" HBO series. Taping of that show was scheduled to begin the third week of November.

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Capitals Draft Tracker

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Draft Tracker

The 2018 NHL Draft starts on Friday with the first round and runs through Saturday. Here's a running tracker of the Caps' picks.

1st round, 31st overall: D Alexander Alexeyev, WHL, 6'4", 196 pounds

The Caps' first first-round pick sine 2016, Alexeyev is a smart two-way defenseman with good size.

Read more on him here.

2nd round, 46th overall (from Florida, via New Jersey): D Martin Fehervary, Allsvenskan (Sweden), 6'2", 194 pounds

A physical style defenseman who is very strong in his own end, but does not have much offensive upside. Sort of a throwback style of play which makes him a surprise pick this high.

2nd round, 47th overall (From Colorado): F Kody Clark, OHL, 6'1", 179 pounds

Kody Clark boasts an NHL pedigree as the son of Wendel Clark, a first-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs who recorded 330 goals and 564 career points in 763 NHL games.

3rd round, 93rd overall: F Riley Sutter, WHL, 6'3", 203 pounds

Riley Sutter also boasts a strong NHL pedigree as the son of Run Sutter and nephew of Darryl Sutter.

Riley is a power forward who played alongside Caps prospect Garrett Pilon on the Everett Silvertips in the WHL and recorded 53 points in 68 games last season.

4th round, 124th overall: G Mitchell Gibson, NAHL, 6'1", 187 pounds

6th round, 186th overall: 

7th round, 217th overall: 

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

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USA TODAY Sports

GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

DALLAS—The Caps are “really close” to signing star defenseman John Carlson to a long-term extension, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday night.

“We’re getting closer,” MacLellan said following the first round of the NHL Draft. “Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps cleared significant space under the salary cap ceiling by trading Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round draft pick (47th overall). 

That space will now be used to lock up Carlson, who could become the best defenseman on the open market if he were to reach it.

MacLellan met with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, here on Thursday night.

MacLellan did not divulge any figures, but it’s expected that Carlson’s new contract could come in at eight years and $8 million per—or perhaps a bit more. 

He earned $4 million last season.

Carlson had a career year in 2017-18 and was critical during the Caps' run to the Stanley Cup. He led all defensemen in the regular season with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists). The 28-year-old also skated a career-high 24:47 per game.

MacLellan has long said that re-signing Carlson was the Caps’ top priority this offseason. And now it looks like that could happen within days, assuming the talks do not hit any snags.

“We’re going to do our best to sign John,” MacLellan said. “We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year. We’ve had discussions. We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

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