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Sport NHL free agency 2018: Can Capitals keep John Carlson in D.C.? It's complicated

19:21  14 june  2018
19:21  14 june  2018 Source:   sportingnews.com

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Defenseman John Carlson is expected to play for the Washington Capitals against the New York Islanders at Barclays Center in New York on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, CSN-DC+, NHL .TV) NHL Insider. Blues eye major upgrade at center, either through free agency or trade. news.

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WASHINGTON — John Carlson leaned against the wall at the Capitals’ final media day, officially bringing to a close their Stanley Cup season. He’s more relaxed than usual, though completely aware of the elephant in the room: Where will he be in a matter of weeks?

When asked, he took a deep breath, not fazed. His composure didn’t falter one bit.

“I haven’t had any talks with anyone, and I don’t know what you’d like me to say,” Carlson said of his future with the team. “I wish I had all the answers, and it’ll be a process to get those answers.”

Carlson, set to become one of the NHL's most highly coveted unrestricted free agents July 1, has been with the Capitals organization for the duration of his career, drafted 27th overall nearly a decade ago. He raised a Calder Cup with Hershey back when he was still an up-and-coming prospect, and has since grown into a top-pairing defenseman and, finally, a Stanley Cup champion.

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However, the most important thing to Carlson is the fact that “this has been my home.” It’s where his two sons were born. He lives in D.C. nearly year-round, and has spent his career playing with the same core group, including players he developed in Hershey with.

“I’ve lived here every summer since I’ve been here and this is my home base,” Carlson said. “Obviously, the guys I’ve been around and the experiences we’ve had, and I love the area. This is all I know.”

It’s no secret Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan also wants to see his top blueliner return next year. However, it’s not going to come easy.

“We’re going to be limited to a certain extent to what we can offer," he said Wednesday, "but hopefully, we can find a spot that satisfies both parties.”

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John Carlson News. Capitals Postgame Locker Room. John Carlson Bio. Carlson , a strong, two-way defenseman, made a name for himself even before turning pro. He started his path to the NHL with Indiana of the United States Hockey League .

2018 NHL Draft Coverage. Coming Up. John Carlson , D Team: Washington Capitals Cap charge: .96 million Age: 27 2016-17 stats: 9-28-37 in 72 games. Orpik could be a buyout candidate to make room for Carlson if the Capitals are interested in keeping him.

That may be a bit hard to pull off. Washington only has $11 million left in cap space for next season with 10 total free agents — restricted or unrestricted — including Carlson, as well as the likes of Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Jay Beagle and Michal Kempny.

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Right now, it appears Philipp Grubauer will be headed somewhere else; MacLellan touched on the future of his backup goalie and admitted he can be a starter for another team — and deserves to be. Players like Alex Chiasson and Jakub Jerabek aren’t shoo-ins for an extension with Washington, and on-the-rise players in Madison Bowey and Travis Boyd won’t be requiring a big pay raise.

But Carlson will.

The 28-year-old put up a career-high 15 goals and 68 points this season, and his 24:51 average TOI ranked 11th among all NHL skaters. Not to mention, seeing that Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson just earned an eight-year, $64 million extension, Carlson will likely be seeking a similar deal.

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“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said. “I want to stay here, but there’s more to it than that.”

With only so much left in cap space and a handful of players looking for a deal, it’s going to be nearly impossible for the Capitals to give Carlson a deal that pays that much. It’s going to be a stretch, especially if Washington plans to hold onto as many players as possible; not only that, all of their free agents played big parts in their championship season.

a man standing in front of a crowd: John Carlson © (Getty Images) John Carlson

MacLellan said he and Carlson didn’t get to meet too much during the regular season, and decided in the middle of the campaign to push discussions off until the season ends. He anticipates the two will start discussions next week.

“We’d really like to have him back,” MacLellan said.

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