Coming off their franchise’s first Stanley Cup earlier this month, the Washington Capitals, taking a break from their raucous celebrations, have secured their number one defenseman, and one of the most prized unrestricted free agents of the summer in John Carlson. The 28-year-old from Massachusetts has played on the Capitals’ blue line since the 2010-11 season, posting 333 points in 608 games with the club.
The Caps’ efforts to replicate the successes of their exultant 2018 campaign would need the presence of a number one defenseman of his calibre; the teams that are successful in the post-season all have minute crunchers, like the Ottawa Senators’ Erik Karlsson in last year’s playoffs and Drew Doughty for the Los Angeles Kings’ cup winning seasons in 2012 and 2014.
Carlson posted a career high in points through the regular season, with 68 points and a full year’s worth 82 games played. What is even more impressive about his season is his play through the playoffs, notching 20 points through 24 games. Without him, the Caps would not have enjoyed the success they did.
The biggest trade on day one of the draft this Friday saw the Colorado Avalanche trade their second round pick- the 47th overall- for Capitals goaltender Phillip Grubauer and defenseman Brooks Orpik. Without either of these players, the Caps may have struggled to be as successful this post-season. Grubauer played very well in Braden Holtby’s absence between the pipes to close out the season, whilst Orpik played some of his best hockey for Washington this post-season- he even ended a 220 game scoring drought in the Stanley Cup Final against the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
The aim of the trade was to free up space in the salary cap, as Orpik’s $5.5 million cap hit was a hindrance for efforts to lock-down John Carlson for eight more years. Although a fan favourite, the Caps knew that Orpik’s contract was too much of a burden to bear.
Now, having finally managed to make it past the second round of the playoffs, and having won the Stanley Cup, the Washington Capitals will be hungry for more post-season success. Securing John Carlson’s services for years to come will help them achieve more, though, towards the end of the eight year term, when he enters his mid-to-late thirties, may hurt them. That is the nature of big free agent signings.
What this signing means is that we can expect upcoming UFA defensemen Doughty of the LA Kings and Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators will be paid even more, as they are all Norris trophy winning players. We can expect Doughty to stay where he is, though it would be no surprise if Karlsson is no longer a Senator by the time his new contract is signed.