The Capitals signed defenseman Karl Alzner to a four-year contract extension worth $11.2 million, the team announced Wednesday.
The deal carries an annual salary cap hit of $2.8 million and is a value signing for Washington, which has come to rely on the British Columbia native as one of its top two defensemen over the past three years.
For Alzner, who turns 25 in September, the security of a four-year deal was key.
“Being able to stay in one place, hopefully stay in one place…. is something that we were really interested in,” Alzner said. “Another thing for me is looking at the team, thinking that we have a legitimate chance of doing something good here. I think everybody wants to be on a winning team. The longer of an opportunity I have to be with this team the better I think it’s going to be.”
Alzner has averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time per game and been top three on the team in blocked shots for three straight seasons and been the Capitals’ most consistent defensively sound blueliner night in and night out. He doesn’t have flashy statistics, what with five goals and 39 assists in 263 NHL regular season games, but brings a steadiness to Washington’s defense whenever he’s on the ice.
Last year, he showed he could excel apart from long-time defensive partner John Carlson as well when he skated often with Mike Green as the team’s top pairing.
His prominent place in the lineup doesn’t change the fact that restricted free agents hold little leverage in the negotiation process, though, or the fact that stay-at-home defensemen generally garner less salary than their offensively inclined counterparts. Those realities are likely how the Capitals managed to secure such a cap-friendly deal to keep Alzner in the fold until he is 28.
Alzner had arbitration rights this year, but given his style of game he knew it wasn’t his “best option” and was happy to avoid it.
“I think for a player like me is not necessarily very well represented in arbitration,” Alzner said. “I’m definitely not a numbers guy, my game isn’t something that you can read about and get a sense in a resume it’s more something you need to watch on video over a long period of time…..It was, I think, in both of our best interests to try and settle before that.”
The Capitals bought out one year of Alzner’s unrestricted free agent eligibility with this deal and General Manager George McPhee said he didn’t feel the need to stretch the deal longer to absorb more UFA years.
“We don’t want to do too many long term deals and four years is a long time,” McPhee said. “We can go back to Karl in three years and start again. He’s the kind of player coaches love, managers love, really reliable player, great teammate. I thought it was a real good pick when we made it [in 2007], thought he could play here for 15 years and it looks like that could happen.”
With Alzner signed, the Capitals now have a little more than $5.6 million in space remaining under the $64.3 million salary cap for next season.
In other restricted free agent news, the Capitals also re-signed AHL forward Peter LeBlanc to a one-year, two-way deal. LeBlanc recorded 8 goals and 10 assists in 33 games for the Hershey Bears last season.