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Capitals sign Alzner to two-year contract

Friday, 07.15.2011 / 4:30 PM / NHL Free Agency 2011

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Capitals sign Alzner to two-year contract
Washington defenseman Karl Alzner understands why many fans and media people believe he took less than the market would suggest he's worth to re-sign with the Capitals.

A two-year, $2.57 million contract such as the one Alzner signed late Thursday does seem like a particularly cap friendly deal for a potential top-pair, stay-at-home defenseman who is only 22 years old and has already shown the durability to play all 82 games in a season.

But, as Alzner noted during a conference call Friday, the deal the Capitals were offering was the only one available to him, so his choices were either sign now or continue to wait through the summer for Washington to budge or another team to swoop in with an offer sheet that likely was never going to come.

Alzner didn't want to wait. He just wants to play.

"It's not too often where you get exactly what you're asking for," Alzner said. "There are two different ways of looking at this contract. We had to come down a bit and Washington had to go up a bit. We're just happy we got something done. That was the main thing. I don't have to worry about it anymore and can just focus on playing hockey."

Alzner also realizes the potential future upside to signing a lower-term contract now. If he continues to progress over these next two seasons, he could be in line for a significant raise from the Capitals once this new deal expires and he again becomes a restricted free agent.

"This is that one contract that you maybe have to take something that isn't the first thing you wanted, and hopefully I play well these next two years and the next one is the bigger one," Alzner said. "It would have been a different road if we would have not taken this and tried to figure out a new contract next season. In my situation now, I wanted to get a contract done and have that in the back of my mind.

"It's a big relief. You don't need outside distractions coming into camp or playing in the regular season."

Alzner wasn't the only one relieved to get this contract done. Caps coach Bruce Boudreau appeared particularly giddy when he learned of Alzner's signing from a media member at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va.

"Oh, he signed? Good stuff," Boudreau said smiling and nodding his head. "He's a very important part of our team. He got a lot of minutes and played in a lot of tough situations. I think it's a great signing on our part. I'm glad it was done."

Alzner was one of just three defensemen aged 22 or younger to compete in all 82 games during the 2010-11 regular season. He averaged 20 minutes of ice time per game and finished the season with 132 blocked shots and 98 hits along with 2 goals, 12 points, 24 penalty minutes and a plus-14 rating.

"He deserved the ice time and the position he got, playing against the other team's top line most every night," Boudreau said. "Karl is such a good stay-at-home defenseman that he gives a lot of faith to the coaches when we put him out there that he's not going to make a mistake. A stay-at-home guy like Karl that can move the puck is an added bonus."

With Alzner locked up for two more years and John Carlson entering the final year on his entry-level contract, the Capitals once again should have what is arguably the top young defensive pair in the League.

Carlson is only 21 years old, but like his partner, he also played in all 82 games last season and contributed 37 points and a plus-21 rating while averaging more than 22 and a half minutes per game.

Alzner and Carlson have played together for two seasons going back to their time in the AHL during the 2009-10 season.

"(Alzner) and John Carlson make a perfect team," Boudreau said. "If they keep progressing, I think they're going to be a very good duo."

And an inexpensive one -- relatively speaking, of course.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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