As the 2017-18 regular season begins to wind down, Washington Capitals’ management is surely starting to look at the cap space they have and who they might be interested in re-signing, trading (if any), or signing in free agency. A big name that could potentially hit the free agent market this summer is none other than Capitals defenseman John Carlson.
Carlson has been a key piece to the Capitals’ defensive puzzle this season, and while the team has somewhat struggled in the defense department, Carlson currently has 64 points on the season (15 goals, 49 assists), and leads NHL defensemen in goals and points. The early belief is that No. 74 might have priced himself high for Washington, with a belief that he could potentially seek $6-8 million a season. That being said, the Capitals have shocked us all before with their ability to make moves and get contracts signed when all has been deemed impossible, so one can’t dismiss the chance of Carlson re-signing over the summer. That said, today we’re taking a look at some of the other defensemen around the league who might peak Washington’s interest should they have to let Carlson go.
Entering Free Agency
Luca Sbisa – Vegas Golden Knights, UFA
While not the point-earning powerhouse Carlson is, Sbisa is a consistently solid player for the NHL’s newest team. He has earned 14 points in the 30 games he’s played. Despite his lack of goals, Sbisa has a history of being able to create chances for his teammates. Sbisa has missed a lot of game time due to injury, and that should be considered when weighing his pros and cons. One additional positive to add to this list, however, is that despite being appointed an Alternate Captain for the Knights in their inaugural year, Sbisa’s current salary is $3.6 million per year, marginally less than Carlson’s current deal. This could add just enough breathing room for an additional signing or re-signing later on in the offseason.
Thomas Hickey – New York Islanders, UFA
Hickey is one year older than Carlson, and while it’s very difficult to find a juggernaut point-scorer on the blueline, he has made a name for himself as a reliable defenseman in New York. He is currently riding-out the end of his Islanders contract and is likely to increase his asking price when the time comes. His current deal earned him $3.1 million annually. Tacking Hickey onto the Caps’ roster would free up nearly one million in cap space while still having a decent replacement to fill the gap Carlson would undoubtedly leave. Hickey currently has four goals and 17 assists this season, for a total of 21 points. If he earns two more points, Hickey will reach a career-high 23 points during the regular season.
Matt Dumba – Minnesota Wild, RFA
Of the defensemen slated to enter free agency this year, Matt Dumba is second behind Carlson for having the most points. Dumba’s currently boasting a handsome 42 points (11 goals, 31 assists), and is only 24-years old. His current deal with the Wild is also far cheaper than Carlson’s potential asking price, at just $2.7 million each season. That said, it is more than likely that a young player who’s capable of performing well will increase his own asking price. This could be the best possible option that Washington has, if not for one little note: Dumba is a restricted free agent, not an unrestricted free agent. This could mean Washington would have to make a few extra steps if they want to land the Wild’s young defenseman; that is assuming Minnesota would even consider parting with Dumba in the first place..
Mike Green – Detroit Red Wings, UFA
A popular conversation piece among Caps fans in the week leading up ro the trade deadline, it was widely believed that the former Capital would make his way back to Washington to finish off his current contract. Despite all the speculation, Green remained in Detroit. Detroit, having just been eliminated from playoff contention, by Washington, no less, is just a few games shy of calling it a season. When they do, Green will likely begin to asses his options for movement. Green has eight goals and 25 assists on the season. His ability to create chances would be a welcome addition to the Capitals’ roster. However, Green recently underwent cervical neck surgery, which could influence teams’ interests in him.
Noah Hanafin, Carolina Hurricanes, RFA
Another Restricted Free Agent with an expiring contract this summer, Noah Hanafin is among the youngest defensemen currently signed in the NHL at 21-years old. For such a young player, he has seen overwhelming success, having earned 81 points in just three seasons. He is also currently locked in at a cool $900,000 contact, which gives he and the Capitals plenty of negotiating room when deciding on a price to help alleviate some cap space for other needs. With all this in mind, it would seem a perfect fit to go through the red tape surrounding RFAs to try to bring Hanafin over the Capitals; he’d be a much welcomed addition to the team, and would likely be with us for a good, long time. However, it is highly unlikely Carolina would even consider parting with him, so this option would be worth little effort by the Caps.
These are just a few names that come to mind when we think of defensemen in the free agent market; there are well over 150 names to look at heading into the offseason. Who do you think Washington should look to land if they are forced to move on from Carlson? And of course, the bigger questions, SHOULD the Capitals let Carlson go, or is he worth the money he’s asking for? Stay tuned to NoVa Caps for any news regarding his contract negotiations and for all your latest Washington Capitals news.
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