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After 591 games and nine seasons as a Capital, defenseman Karl Alzner, a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent, is almost certainly going to be playing in a new sweater next season barring an extreme change of circumstances. While teams are still unable to officially sign players until July 1st, they will soon be allowed to begin talking to any UFAs leading up to the official free agency period. It comes as no surprise that Alzner is already drawing significant interest from other clubs.
According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, Alzner is set to visit the Montreal Canadiens as part of his “tour” to visit other teams, of which there are plenty. TSN’s Darren Dreger also confirms that Alzner is set to visit multiple teams in the next week. Despite the Caps’ sudden need for a Top 4 defenseman, General Manager Brian MacLellan has already all but confirmed that the Capitals are likely done with signing their remaining unrestricted free agents after re-signing right wing T.J. Oshie to a massive eight-year contract. However, the Caps are still open to “all avenues”.
Even if the Capitals do explore the unrestricted free agent market, it’s highly unlikely that Alzner will be back. As a solid, shutdown Top 4 defenseman, Alzner is set to get paid well after making a bargain salary of $2.8 million on his expiring contract. Teams are willing to pay a premium for Top 4 defensemen, and it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Alzner commands $5 million or more on his next contract. With several young defensemen in the American Hockey League possibly or almost ready to join the NHL club, the Caps likely won’t want to commit to the 28-year old Alzner on a long-term deal.
Alzner has been one of the best shutdown blueliners in the NHL throughout his career and has led the Capitals in blocked shots the last few seasons. While losing him will be a big blow to the already-depleted blueline, the Caps simply cannot afford to re-sign Alzner given their salary cap situation. As mentioned above, with a bevy of young talent in the system, it doesn’t make sense for the Capitals to commit to a veteran player. Alzner will always be a favorite of Caps fans, but his time in D.C. is likely over.
By Michael Fleetwood