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McPhee magic: Caps re-sign Karl Alzner to two-year, $2.57 million deal; Is restricted free agency working?

Jul 15, 2011, 11:35 AM EDT

Karl Alzner Getty Images

If there’s a general manager out there this summer who’s having a banner year and showing just how to get things done smartly it’s Caps GM George McPhee.

After McPhee was able to net a first and second round pick from Colorado for Semyon Varlamov and land a veteran #1 goalie in Tomas Vokoun for one year at $1.5 million, he’s gone and pulled off another coup in how he re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Karl Alzner. While Alzner remained unsigned, the prospect of getting him signed on the cheap and not to a long term deal seemed impossible.

Instead, the Caps locked up Alzner for the next two years for nearly $2.6 million. Mike Vogel from Caps365.com reports that the total worth of the deal is two years for $2.57 million with Alzner getting $1.3 million this season and $1.27 next season.

For a young and promising defenseman who played on the Capitals shutdown defensive pair with youngster John Carlson, Alzner’s deal is a salary cap dream and a steal all at once. With the Caps being in such a salary crunch, it’s all the more helpful to the team’s bottom line. With Alzner’s $1.285 million cap hit figured in, CapGeek.com has the Caps over the salary cap by less than a million dollars with everyone necessary now signed up. Finding a way to get under the cap with relatively so few dollars to chop off won’t be too difficult for the Capitals.

The hero through all this, however, is McPhee. The Caps were poised to have some very tough decisions to make roster-wise once Alzner was locked up to a deal. That contract was presumed to be another long deal with an egregious cap hit after what we’ve seen elsewhere with other defensemen. With Alzner being young (he’s just 22), talented, and still growing better as a player the sky was presumably the limit for his asking price.

Instead, he re-signs for a deal that when it ends he’ll still be a restricted free agent and still able to potentially hold the Caps’ feet to the fire for a big, long-term deal. Through all of this, however, you have to wonder just what the problem is with the restricted free agent market and the absence of offer sheets being signed. There was no better player for an opposing GM to make a run at than Alzner thanks to the Caps salary cap situation and he didn’t see an offer worth signing on to.

That either means other general managers don’t want to go through the hassle and potential negative PR of poaching a player or restricted free agency has run its course as a viable option of obtaining a player. After all, if other teams aren’t going to press the system to force big spending teams to pay for their poor cap management, why even bother with it? Then again, if this silly system is able to make smart GMs show just why they’re some of the best in the league at figuring things out, we’re not against that either.

It’s just crazy to see the Capitals land a top goalie and retain a top defenseman for a relatively small sum of $2.8 million just this season. Either this means McPhee is the smartest guy in the room, or players really are willing to swallow some short time pride to try and win the Stanley Cup before getting paid.

  1. hystoracle - Jul 15, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    The teams with money are already at the cap. The teams with shoestring budgets don’t intend on using anymore cap space then required. That leaves very few teams to bid on RFA’s. And most of those left have their own to be concerned with.. The strange team is the Islanders still coasting around over 10 mil under the floor.

  2. watermelon1 - Jul 16, 2011 at 2:10 AM

    It would have been inexcusable if a team that was so bad defensively let one of their best defenders leave. Keeping Carlson and Alzner together is a good start. Now they better hope these new additions gel nicely so that they can finally get rid of Mike Green… hopefully before the playoffs start.

  3. daveydawg - Jul 16, 2011 at 7:02 AM

    It’s called Collusion I believe. The fact that a 21 year old phenom draws no interest is a mockery of the “system.” Lockout coming next year.

    • bcjim - Jul 16, 2011 at 2:10 PM

      Disagree. All an offer sheet would do is piss off the Caps. They would match any reasonable offer and most unreasonable ones. GMs dont want other GMs involved in their negotiations and McPhee would not have forgotten it if a team offered Alzner 3M. He would offers sheeted every one of their RFAs for the next decade.

      • daveydawg - Jul 17, 2011 at 11:50 AM

        you are making my point.

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