When Brent Burns re-signed with the San Jose Sharks for eight years and $64 million earlier this week, it took the best blueliner off this summer’s free agent market.
There are still some pretty good blueliners who could be available, including Dennis Wideman, Dmitry Kulikov, Kris Russell ad Brian Campbell, but Burns’ signing probably had the biggest impact on the next two best blueliners on expiring deals: Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk.
With Burns coming in at $8 million against the cap on his extension, what are these two younger, less dynamic defenders worth? Will they even make it to free agency?
“I understand last summer there were two teams given permission to talk to Shattenkirk by St. Louis and I believe that was Edmonton and Arizona. The teams aren’t commenting, the agents aren’t commenting, but from what I understand that was the case,” Elliotte Friedman said on Hockey Night in Canada’s Headlines segment.
“Shattenkirk wasn’t interest in Edmonton. Arizona did have some movement, but obviously not enough to get a deal done. A lot of teams think Shattenkirk likes the Rangers, but if there’s a bidding war there it could push him up close to $7 million.”
Of these two defenders, Shattenkirk is the offensive weapon and Alzner is the defensive shutdown guy. Both were picked in the first round of the 2007 NHL draft (Alzner fifth, Shattenkirk 14th), but bring two different styles. So what is Alzner worth next to Shattenkirk’s more offensive game? And, since he’s on the Capitals — a team unlikely to move a player like him as they push for a Stanley Cup — is he more likely to hit the open market at the end of the season?
That could depend on what the Capitals think they have and what they want to be moving forward beyond this season. The unclear answer may surprise you.
“If you’re now the Washington Capitals and you’ve got as many as 10 contracts expiring at the end of the year and one of them is Karl Alzner you’re going to have some challenges,” Nick Kypreos said. “The problem now is the price has been set for Alzner, as much as $6 million they believe is the going rate for top-four defencemen. They can’t go down that path, not until you truly find out what you want to do.
“You mentioned (Evgeny) Kuznetsov in our pre-game show, I would of said last season at this time he was a lock to get a long-term deal and be a fixture for the Washington Capitals. I’m not sure they’re as convinced anymore. Until they really find out what their lineup is you can’t sign a guy like Karl Alzner.
“People are telling me don’t rule out George McPhee in Las Vegas who’s got a history with Karl. Maybe he’s lurking there on July 1.”
Kuznetsov, who broke out in a big way last season with 20 goals and 77 points, has just nine points in 21 games this season. It may be surprising to hear the team may not be as convinced about his future as they once were, but with as many offensive weapons as the Caps already possess, you also don’t want to lose too many defensive stalwarts at the expense of forward depth.
The Caps certainly have some difficult decisions to make this summer, with five UFAs and six RFAs to deal with. In the end, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to keep them all.