John Carlson's contract with the Washington Capitals likely to be a bargain

Jonathan Willis
September 17 2012 12:24PM

John Carlson (Photo: Michael Miller/Wikimedia/CC BY-SAY 3.0)

After a slow summer for hockey news, teams got busy in the twilight hours of the last collective bargaining agreement, with more than 20 players signed to new contracts in the last few days. Among those signed was Washington Capitals defenceman John Carlson, to a six-year, $23.8 million contract.

Capitals general manager George McPhee said that he was happy to get the deal done prior to the end of the CBA (i.e. while the team could still talk to the player) and noted that Carlson was the party pushing for term. McPhee said that the team was willing to sign what he called a “bridge contract” – a short-term deal to give the player a little longer to establish himself – but that they bowed to Carlson’s wish for multiple years. His comments to the media:

Good News for Washington

While both sides are happy with the contract – Carlson’s agent Paul Krepelka went so far as to say that “the Capitals throughout the whole process were nothing but professionals, grateful, honest” – it is the Capitals that should be thrilled with this contract.

At 22 years of age, John Carlson played just shy of 1,800 minutes in the NHL, and emerged as the team’s top defenceman (for the second consecutive year) in the post-season. He was one of the Capitals’ top options in both the defensive zone and against top competition and despite an ugly plus/minus year (exacerbated by a 0.899 on-ice save percentage, something well outside his control) once again showed himself to be a capable number one or two defenceman at the NHL level.

Carlson’s $3.97 million/season nicely matches contracts signed by other young defenders. Marc Staal, Andrej Meszaros, Victor Hedman and Tobias Enstrom all signed deals in the same range; it’s also a highly comparable contract to the one the Oilers signed Tom Gilbert to back in the summer of 2008.

That’s good company to be in, but then Carlson is a 22-year old top-pairing NHL defender. He’s worth the money he’s getting in the here and now and there’s little reason to believe he’s going to get worse over the lifetime of this deal. His offensive game may not continue evolving – Mattias Ohlund, who picked up 35 points and played 1929 minutes at the same age is a good example of the route this sort of player can take – but even if it doesn’t it’s all but certain that he’ll be a quality NHL’er for the life of this deal.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Kent Wilson
September 17 2012, 04:18PM
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Yeah. That looks like a pretty good bet for Washington.

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#2 Oilers21
September 17 2012, 05:31PM
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Just a question (and Carlson is probably a bad example) - is on-ice save percentage really completely out of a player's control? If I'm Nick Lidstrom and I'm expert at keeping guys to the outside, are the shots coming at my goaltender not going to be stopped more easily than if I'm a pylon like Cam Barker, letting guys unleash lasers from 5 feet out?

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#4 Ralph
September 17 2012, 11:25PM
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@Jonathan Willis

I wouldn't be surprised if Carlson legitimately struggled (see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/sports/capitals/scoring-chances/index.html), but yeah, that's what coaches are for. They'll help him see his mistakes and round out his game, and he'll be better next year.

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