Since making the Capitals’ Opening Night lineup in training camp prior to the 2010-11 season, defenseman Karl Alzner has been in the Caps’ Opening Night lineup for over 500 consecutive games and become one of the most beloved and respected players on the team. Now, after nine NHL seasons with the Capitals, the popular defenseman has likely played his last game in a Capitals sweater.
Drafted by the Caps fifth overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Alzner will likely be playing elsewhere next season due to the Capitals’ tight salary cap situation and a bevy of other important free agents (both restricted and unrestricted) to re-sign. The 28-year old shutdown blueliner is coming off a four-year contract with an annual salary of $2.8 million and will likely command a long-term deal with an annual cap hit exceeding $5 million or more in free agency, as he is among the best blueliners available on July 1. Over the last few seasons, Alzner has become one of the NHL’s best defensive defensemen, and has led the Caps in blocked shots on numerous occasions.
Whenever a popular player, especially one that has played with one team for a long time and has made an impact, departs in free agency, it is always a bittersweet moment; something the Caps experienced just a few summers ago with free agents such as Mike Green, Eric Fehr, Jason Chimera, and Joel Ward. While the Capitals would undoubtedly love to keep him in the District, their aforementioned cap situation, other free agents, and young defensemen Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov (two of their restricted free agents) ready for larger roles, Alzner’s likely asking price will prevent him from staying with the only team he’s ever known. He’s set the record for the most consecutive games played and has been the Caps’ Iron Man during that time.
In 591 career games played with the Capitals, Alzner has recorded 117 points (19 goals, 98 assists) and a plus/minus rating of plus-61. He ranks eighth in franchise history in games played amongst defensemen (11 away from passing Hall of Famer Scott Stevens’ 601 games), and is 10th in franchise among all players in defensive points shared (the number of points contributed by a player due to his defense) with 28.7 DPS.
But perhaps it is not the end. Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan has been very proactive in free agency in the past (see Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik) and has yet to talk to the media about his blueprint for this offseason, one that will also feature an Expansion Draft, so maybe the Caps’ brilliant GM will find a way to retain the longtime defensive stalwart. Alzner did say in his Exit Interview last week that stability for his family mattered more to him than dollars. If that ends up being the case, perhaps the Capitals could keep him on a hometown discount, albeit not a very large one.
If this is indeed the end of Alzner’s Capitals career, it is one that will not be forgotten anytime soon. Alzner represented everything the Washington Capitals stand for, and his dedication, hard work ethic, sportsmanship, and overall play makes him a player fans will not forget.
By Michael Fleetwood