With New Contract in Hand, Carlson Aims to Be Best Defenseman in the League

nbcsPhoto: NBC Sports

Defenseman John Carlson spoke to the media at Kettler Capitals Iceplex after signing an eight-year contract worth $64 million ($8 million AAV) with the Washington Capitals on Sunday evening. He could have become an unrestricted free agent July 1. 

“It’s big, I think. I’ve played here my whole career and this contract… you know not many guys get to stay in the NHL this long and certainly not with the same team. Those were obviously factors and just the comfort level with the whole team and you know, everything around here,” Carlson said about his new contract, which will make him the second highest paid Capital after Alex Ovechkin ($9.54 million AAV).

Carlson was set to become one of the most coveted free agents this summer after tallying a career-high 68 points during the regular season, which led NHL defensemen. He also tallied 15 goals, which tied St. Louis Blues’ defenseman Alex Pietrangelo for the third most among defensemen.

“I loved being around the city from the start and my wife’s from here so you got kids and it’s nice to be able to stay in one spot,” said Carlson, who is the only Capital to live in DC year-round.

Carlson also spoke about the possibility of Todd Reirden being promoted to head coach with Barry Trotz resigning from the job after he and the Capitals could not reach an agreement on a new contract. Reirden, who will interview for the job later this week with no others in line for the position at the moment, has been close to Carlson the past four years because he was in charge of working with the defense and power play.

Carlson said it would be an easier transition for the team under Reirden. “I think he did a great job of taking everybody for being different people and seeing things different ways and he seemed to connect with everyone, different personalities. I think he makes you look at the game a little bit differently than I did when I got here. Just the way I approached things and [he] really helped with certain drills or thoughts to get better in certain areas. I think he’s been big for my career.”

Carlson also said he wanted defenseman Michal Kempny, who played on the second pairing with him, to return. Kempny, 27, can become an unrestricted free agent on Sunday. He was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks on February 19 in exchange for a 2018 third-round draft pick. Kempny tallied two goals and three points and was a +1 in 22 games with the Capitals during the regular season after he was acquired. In the postseason, Kempny posted two goals and five points and was a +1 in 24 games. The Capitals offered him a contract over the weekend but no agreement has been reached yet.

“I thought he was a great player. He made a huge impact on our team when he got here. I think we started to play our best hockey maybe 10-15 games after he got here and then I thought he played awesome in the playoffs and he’s a great player, a great defender. He can skate so it’s pretty textbook what you want to have on your team and certainly I think we played well together from my standpoint,” Carlson said about Kempny.

 Carlson also said that he would still live in D.C. during the summers if he signed with a different team. “I got property now anyway, so we would’ve lived here in the summer even if I went somewhere else. It’s kind of a no-brainer if I was going to move, I wouldn’t be gone forever,” he said. He also likes that it’s close to home in New Jersey and Massachusetts, where he was born.

On his preparation for the 2018-19 season, Carlson said “I think you give yourself some time to heal and recover and I think that’s just a big thing after the season… just get your skates off. Just to train your body in a different way than you do during the season but yeah, the timing of it all is a little bit different. That period of maybe not skating is going to be the only one in terms of training because you’re a little bit light either this year or next year but yeah, I’ll do the same things that I would do than just me last time.”

In terms of his future goals, Carlson said, “I think I want to be the best defenseman in the league every single year and I’m sure I’m going to get more questions about it now. From my mental preparation and that side of the game, I think, I have a pretty good plan going into everything. Everyone’s different in the way they do that. I think that’s what I’ll focus on, just helping this team win.”

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was seeing T.J. Oshie's hat-trick​ during Game 1 of the Caps' second round playoff series against Pittsburgh in 2016. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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