Photo credit: Greg Fiume
Just two days after re-signing restricted free agent Mathieu Perreault, the Washington Capitals locked up their two remaining RFAs on Friday, inking defenseman Karl Alzner to a two-year deal and forward Francois Bouchard to a one-year contract.
Alzner, of course, is the most important player of the bunch. In his first full season in the NHL last year, the Burnaby, British Columbia native became part of the Caps’ top defensive pairing, along with John Carlson, and provided a steady, stay-at-home presence on the blue-line.
“I think he’s a very important part of our team,” Washington Head Coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “He got a lot of minutes and played in a lot of tough situations so I think it’s a great signing on our part — glad it was done.”
But even though he played a pivotal role to the Caps last season, Alzner is not looking at much of a raise with his new deal — in fact, just the opposite. According to the team’s Mike Vogel, Alzner is due $1.3 million next season and $1.27 million in 2012-13, making his cap hit almost $400,000 lower than his previous contact’s, though the guaranteed money is higher.
“There was no other offer out there so that was all I had,” Alzner, 22, said. “So it was either take it or leave it.”
“We definitely had to come down a bit and Washington had to come up a bit,” he added. “We’re happy that we got something done, that was the main thing.”
Still, Alzner knows that if he can keep up his stellar play the next two years, that big pay will finally be in the offing.
“A lot of guys, their ambition is to be able to play really well and be able to be rewarded by that by winning a Stanley Cup and be being able to sign a bigger ticket than your one before,” he said. “It’s not the main focus obviously but it is something that you think about. … It’s up to me now.”
As for the Capitals, this continues the fantastic offseason for General Manager George McPhee. Alzner is at least a top four defenseman who has not yet reached his prime. One of only three d-men 22 or younger to play all 82 regular season games, he handled that pressure with relative ease, something that was not lost on Boudreau Friday.
“He deserved the ice time and the positioning he got, playing against the other team’s top line most of the time,” the coach said. “Karl is such a good stay-at-home defenseman that he gives a lot of faith to the coaches when we put him out there that he’s not going to make a mistake.”
Add to this the Semyon Varlamov trade — which yielded a first-round pick in 2010 and a second-rounder in 2011 — plus the $1.5 million signing grand larceny of Tomas Vokoun and GMGM is certainly earning his keep. McPhee might as well just work his magic and stash the government on long-term injured reserve to fix the debt crisis at this point.