McPhee locks up Alzner for next four seasons
Going into the offseason, it was pretty apparent the Capitals were not willing to pay Mike Ribeiro and Matt Hendricks the kind of money they received in unrestricted free agency.
Instead, general manager George McPhee set his sights on re-signing restricted free agents Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson.
Because he had the right to go to arbitration, getting a deal done with Alzner figured to be more challenging than striking an agreement with Johansson, who does not have arbitration rights.
But that has not been the case.
Last week, Alzner signed a four-year, $11.2 million contract that put his average salary at a very manageable $2.8 million, a bargain price for a player who could begin next season on a top defense pairing with Mike Green, who has two years remaining on a contract that averages just under $6.1 million.
Meanwhile, negotiations continue for Johansson, who is expected to begin next season on a top line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.
“For me, it’s mainly about security, being able to stay in one place,” Alzner told reporters in a conference call. “Knowing you have a deal for the next four year was something we were really interested in. Hopefully, it’s all in one place and I’m not traded or anything like that.”
Alzner said that although the Caps have not signed a big-name free agent, he believes the team is built to win it all during his four-year extension.
“Looking at the team, we have a legitimate chance of doing something good here and I think everybody really wants to be on a winning team, he said. “The longer I have an opportunity to be with this team, the better I think it’s going to be.”
Johansson may be thinking the same way, but if he’s seeking top-line money he may be forced to settle for a short-term deal.
Alzner said he stayed away from arbitration for two reasons – it can get ugly, and he doesn’t have the numbers to back up his value to the team.
“I have heard some stories about it,” he said. “It’s not a fun thing for players to go through and probably not for teams, either. I’m definitely not a numbers guy. My game doesn’t really translate too well to a resume. It’s more something you see on video or over a long period of time.”
You could make the argument, rather convincingly, that Alzner, 24, means as much to the Capitals as John Carlson, 23. During the playoffs, Alzner averaged 22:18 of ice time; Carlson averaged 22:28.
Both players played their first full NHL season together in 2010-11. But while Alzner has recorded just five goals and 39 assists in 263 NHL games, Carlson has put up 23 goals and 74 assists in 234 games.
That’s why Carlson agreed to a six-year, $23.8 million contract last summer, a deal that averages just under $4 million a season.
“If I had 50 points [a season, not a career]] it would have been great for me financially,” Alzner said, “but that’s not my game. It hurts in the pocket book but I’m not complaining right now.”
Alzner shared his thoughts on some other topics as well:
On playing with Mike Green:
“It forced me to focus on [offense] and be a little more decisive with the puck and more poised as well. It was a great experience.”
On working with assistant coach Calle Johansson on not getting hit as much in the defensive zone:
“It’s one thing we talked about all the time. They didn’t want us to get hit and get worn out by getting punished in the corners all the time. They were OK with us spinning off checks or getting rid the puck in order for us not to get hit. It’s nice not to get smoked like that every single night.”
On what he can do to get better next season:
“There’s tons. The one thing that’s really cool is that a lot of times a coaching staff will focus on the team play all the time. Systems and battles down low in the corners. And while we do focus on that, there’s a lot more emphasis on individual skill development and becoming a better player, which is awesome. They’re always trying to make our games better, which is great. We worked on walking the [blue] line and quick release shots from the point after every single practice and every morning skate last year. Instead of just getting back to the puck, Calle said get back to it knowing you’re going to skate it out right away. A lot of times I would just worry about getting there first and getting it off the glass, instead of getting it and skating with it. I think that comes with confidence.”