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.”

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Free Agency Flustercluck Open Thread

Here’s where all the action happens. Lots of things cooking today.

Japers’ has a great primer on who in the Caps system is up for grabs: Arnott, Sturm, Hannan, Gordon, Brouwer, Bradley, Alzner, Varlamov.

We’ll update this post with each development relevant to the Caps, and you can share your panic-struck ravings in the comments.

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Report: Semyon Varlamov signs with KHL’s SKA

Semyon Varlamov

As reported by the Russian website Sports.ru, goalie Semyon Varlamov has signed with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. Previous reports out of Russia indicated SKA was offering the 23 year-old netminder up to $4 million per year but Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, who held the KHL rights to negotiate with Varlamov, was unwilling to make a trade.

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Down One Russian: Semyon Varlamov to Russia Apparently

The site’s called Russian Machine Never Breaks, so we’ve got a vested interest in the unibrowed wonder called Semyon Varlamov.

Reports everywhere say that Varly will not sign with the Capitals and will play instead in the KHL next season.

This whole thing could’ve been avoided if only we had learned…

After the jump, some RMNB memories of Varly.

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Brooks Laich is Back; Ladies, You Can Exhale Now

Brooks Laich

It looks like six more years of high-fives and tire changes are on tap. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

As all of you Brooks Laich fans kept hitting refresh instead of working Tuesday morning, the Capitals announced that the soon to be unrestricted free agent had re-signed with the team to the tune of six years and $27 million.

“There was never a serious consideration to go anywhere else,” Laich said. “The main core of this team is very young and if you can keep that together, you’re looking at a chance to win a championship for potently the next 10 years, rather than just a window of two to three years. That was a great motivator to get me re-signed.”

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“Time heals all wounds.” – Olie Kolzig (Photo credit: Joe Lavelle)

Olie Kolzig is back! Three years after the fan favorite goalie lost his starting role to Cristobal Huet and left on bad terms the club with which he had spent his entire NHL career, Kolzig has rejoined the Capitals as associate goaltender coach. In his new role, Kolzig will assist Dave Prior, who regains the title of goaltender coach he gave up in 2009 to spend more time with his family. Arturs Irbe took over for Prior but decided not to return for the 2011-12 season, citing reasons similar to Prior’s when he left his coaching job.

“I’m ecstatic to finally come back basically to the place I call home — playing there for so long,” Kolzig told reporters on a conference call. “Being away for two years, I started to get the itch again to get involved again with hockey. … When Dave Prior called me a few weeks back and pitched the idea of coming back and being an associate goaltending coach and working with him, I thought there’s probably not a better person that I want to work with and an organization that I want to be back together with.”

And Kolzig wasn’t the only one who found it a perfect match.

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Behold! Alexsandr's other "We Are The Champions" painting

Did you think this would be a slow news week? Maybe an injury update here or a scouting report there, but overall an uneventful period before the semifinals. Well, you were wrong. From the Internet’s very own disreputable flea market emerges what might become the cultural moment of the hockey season.

(Are we building this up too much?)

Artist Aleksandr Reut has crafted Washington Capitals – We are the Champions!, an exquisite 40″ x 32″ oil painting on canvas. This inspired (yet absurdly premature) work of celebratory art and its partner piece are available for bid or purchase on eBay right now. Starting bid is only $5,000, so crack open those piggy banks.

A 50-something Ukranian ex-pat living in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Reut fills the daytime hours as an architect, but the muses compel him to high art. A decade-old profile from Harrisonburg’s Daily News-Record (reprinted here by brama.com) extols Reut’s passion for mixed media as a sculptor, but he tells me that it’s hockey that really inspires him.

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Alex Ovechkin takes a shot against the Panthers

Just another ho-hum night for Ovechkin: 1 goal, 2 assists. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Semyon Varlamov: Your game's number one star. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Semyon Varlamov: Your game's number one star. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

In a matchup between the Eastern Conference’s best and worst teams, Bruce Boudreau opted to scratch three of his regulars — Jason Arnott, Scott Hannan and Alexander Semin — in the Capitals final home game of the regular season. After seeing his team play a tough 65 minutes in Toronto, Boudreau saw no compelling reason to field his best roster, especially considering the Capitals had already clinched their fourth straight Southeast division title.

Despite there being some signs pointing to Mike Green returning to the line-up tonight, Boudreau opted to sit the two-time Norris Trophy finalist as well. Boudreau told the Washington Post’s Greg Schimmel after today’s morning skate that, “No [Green won’t play tonight], but you know what, he’s ready to play and, I mean, he’s been symptom-free for three weeks plus. It’s just we’re trying to be as cautious as we can with things, just as other people are with guys that they have as concussions and could probably play, but they want to make 100 percent sure. We feel he’ll be good to go on Saturday.”

The Capitals “B” team, however, didn’t miss a beat. Before the game was a minute old, Marcus Johansson — he of the ever-burgeoning confidence — inside outted Mike Weaver with an extra-crispy move. Helpless and out of position, Weaver took a tripping penalty, sending the Capitals power play immediately onto the ice. Mike Knuble, the beneficiary of a Brooks Laich power move to the net, scored 23 seconds into the man-advantage. Jason Chimera, brilliantly set-up by Nicklas Backstrom, then scored via a tap-in on Washington’s second powerplay of the night to close the opening stanza.

The Capitals would never look back. Sean Collins would score his second career NHL goal on a rarely-seen four-on-two odd man break during the second period, Matt Hendricks would pot a goal in front of the net after some hard forechecking in the corners and Alex Ovechkin would add an empty-net goal, his 32nd of the season. Caps maul Panthers, 5-2.

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William Make-A-Wish (33 of 34)

Alexander Semin picks up William after giving him his game jersey. (Photo credit: Shannon family)

Editor’s Note: By now, you’ve probably heard of William Shannon. He is five years old, has acute lymphoblastic leukemia and is everyone’s favorite little Capital. Thanks to the make a Wish-A-Wish foundation and the Caps, William had his dream realized and took the ice with Mike Green, Jason Chimera, D.J. King and Semyon Varlamov on Friday.

“This weekend was an incredible event!,” William’s father Devin Shannon said in an email. “William’s wish was to practice with the Capitals and he did! I can’t tell you how much everyone has done for us and what this weekend has meant for us.”

After practicing with the Caps, William’s journey continued on Saturday when he and his family took in Washington’s matchup with the Buffalo Sabres before riding the on the Zamboni and receiving the jersey off the back of Alexander Semin after the game. I’ll let Devin take it from here:

Day two was just as amazing as day one! Allyson Butler from Make-A-Wish met us in the hotel lobby and took us out to wait for our “ride” to the game! Within minutes a very long black stretch limo appeared before us! Bill, our driver, was very nice. William and Emily quickly climbed in and all we heard for a few minutes was: “Cool!” “This is so sweet!” Then we had chatty little ones for the short ride over to the Verizon Center! It is amazing how just the little things make such a huge impression! How neat it was for the kids to get out of the limo right in front of the Verizon Center with so many fans around wondering who the V.I.P. was!

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William - Make-A-Wish (19 of 35)

William scores on an out of position Semyon Varlamov. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

It was an ordinary day at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Caps players took part in an optional practice, one of the countless and rather mundane skates they will participate in this season. That was, of course, until William Shannon joined in.

William is five years old and suffers from acute lymphoblastic leukemia. His dream is to play for the Washington Capitals. For a few hours at least that dream was realized thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Mid-Atlantic chapter.

With the players wrapping up their on-ice workout, William took the ice, clad in the sweater of his favorite player, Alex Ovechkin, and Ovi’s signature yellow laces. He has been playing hockey since 2009, but had to stop late that year because of side-effects from his treatment. That didn’t keep him out of the rink for long, however, and in February of last year he was back, feeling so weak he had to use a walker, but nonetheless on the ice.

“This is phenomenal. This is every kid’s wish,” William’s mom Sandy told me. “For William, it’s even bigger. Hockey is what has gotten him through. Our hard days, our tough days, we are watching hockey. On our better days he’s playing hockey … To actually be strong enough, to be confidant enough, to be good enough of a skater to hold his own in a way with these players out here, you know, it’s joyful. It’s hope. It’s saying, ‘you’ve got a lifetime’.”

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