Caps sign Carlson to six-year contract extension

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Sports,Brian McNally

The Capitals announced they have signed defenseman John Carlson to a six-year, $23.8 million contract extension.

The 22-year-old has quickly become a reliable presence on the blueline for Washington. He appeared in all 82 games in each of the last two seasons primarily paired with teammate Karl Alzner.

"I think for me it's a comfort level, knowing I'm going to be around and that I can focus on myself and the team rather than trying to focus on what comes next," Carlson said. "Everyone's different. I really like the city, I like the situation being close to home [in New Jersey] and the team that we have here. So I felt this is what I wanted to do and I was adamant about it."

Carlson finished with nine goals and 23 assists last season for a career-best 32 points. Only Dennis Wideman, who left for Calgary via free agency, had more points among Caps' defensemen (11 goals, 35 assists, 46 points). Carlson's game improved as the 2011-12 season progressed, a trend seen in the Stanley Cup playoffs when he added two goals and three assists in 14 games.

"I think [Carlson] was a heck of a draft pick. I'm delighted that we got him 27th overall in the first round," Caps general manager George McPhee said. "He was in the NHL in short order and has played very well since he's been here. He was probably our best all-around defenseman last year, and we think there's still a lot of room to grow. He seems to play his best games in the big games and that's what you like to see.

Carlson's goals against per 60 minutes of even strength ice time was a team-worst 2.92 during the regular season. Wideman was second-worst, and even he was at 2.47. By comparison, Alzner was 2.02. Both Carlson and Alzner faced stiff competition all year, however, and started fewer than half of their shifts in the offensive zone.

The contract was signed just a few days before the collective bargaining agreement between NHL owners and the NHL Players' Association expires at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday. Owners have said if no agreement is reached there will be a lockout, the league's first work stoppage since the 2004-05 season was canceled entirely. That helped the two sides find common ground on a complicated deal.

"Given that if we're in a work stoppage we can't talk to anybody, we're happy that we got it done today," McPhee said. "We'd been talking for quite a while, longer term deals are sometimes tough to put together so it took a long time."

Carlson was one of several young players around the NHL to sign a contract extension before the CBA. Boston also announced a deal on Tuesday with forward Tyler Seguin, 20, (six years, $34.5 million). Edmonton signed forward Taylor Hall, 20, (seven years, $42 million) on Aug. 22 and forward Jordan Eberle, 22, (six years, $36 million) a week later. Carolina did the same with forward Jeff Skinner, 20, (six years, $34.35 million) on Aug. 8. Carlson's salary-cap hit will be $3.967 million when the extension kicks in next season.

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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Brian McNally

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner