While John Tavares is the biggest and most attractive pending free agent who could hit the free-agent market this summer, Washington’s John Carlson would be the most sought-after defenceman if he becomes available.
The 28-year-old scored 68 points in 82 games this season to finish as the highest-scoring blue-liner in 2017-18, and is at the end of a six-year deal that came with a $3.96-million cap hit.
How high could his new number go? Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who would have been a UFA next summer, has reportedly come to a verbal agreement with the Arizona Coyotes on an eight-year extension that would pay $8.25 million against the cap. That contract is a good place to start looking for a comparable on Carlson, so the Capitals’ AAV could easily double this summer.
Just two and a half weeks until he becomes a UFA, Carlson kept the door open to re-signing with the Capitals, but noted that a lot goes into a decision this big.
“We’ll see what happens. We’ll talk and go from there,” Carlson told media at the Capitals’ locker clean out day. “I love it here and all that. I want to stay here, but there’s more to it than that.”
“I love it here. I want to stay here. But there’s more to it than that.” — John Carlson on his approaching free agency. Washington, btw, is home for Carlson. #ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/ytUhigqQmB
— Tarik El-Bashir (@TarikNBCS) June 13, 2018
Carlson said he hadn’t “had talks with anyone” yet about an extension, but it appears the Capitals should have the room to keep him. Today, the Capitals have $11.2 million in cap space, but that will still rise between $3 and $7 million when the league announces the new salary cap for 2018-19. Michal Kempny, Jakub Jerabek, Alex Chiasson and Jay Beagle are all UFAs as well, while Devante Smith-Pelly, Tom Wilson, Travis Boyd and Philipp Grubauer are RFAs.
None of them would cost as much, nor likely be as high priority to keep as Carlson. In fact, in Grubauer’s case, it’s more likely he’ll be traded.
“This has been my home,” Carlson continued. “I’ve lived here every summer since I’ve been here and this is my home base. The guys that I’ve been around, the experiences we’ve had … I love the area and this is all I know.”