Throughout the early stages of the Washington Capitals‘ 2013-14 season, there have been a number of hot topics, whether it be the team’s surplus of goaltenders, Martin Erat asking to be traded or Alexander Ovechkin scoring at a mind-numbing clip. But while each of these stories are certainly interesting, one player that has been quietly racking up a captivating season is John Carlson.
Carlson has had an impressive season on paper, scoring seven goals and eight assists in 38 games, an impressive total for a defenseman. Additionally, he has picked up four power play goals and two power play assists, in turn becoming the quarterback of a Capitals power play unit that ranks no. 1 in the NHL, and has also seen massive minutes on the penalty kill.
Looking at these statistics and the fact that the American has averaged a team-high 24:42 per game will tell you that he is now Washington’s most important defender, but what few know is that he is one of the top bargains in the NHL.
The defender is currently playing on a six-year, $23.8 million deal that goes through the 2017-18 season, and comes in at a cap hit of $3.9667 million per year. To put this into perspective, Mike Green has a cap hit of $6.083 million per year, and Mark Streit, Dustin Byfuglien and Matt Carle all bring in a cap hit of $5 million or greater.
To say that Carlson is playing better than each of these players is an understatement, and he deserves to be paid like it. But while comparing this cap hit based on one good season from Carlson may be unreasonable, it is not the case given the success he has found in recent years.
Since becoming a full-time player in Washington at the beginning of the 2010-11 season, he has steadily maintained a presence on the Capitals’ second pair, normally playing alongside fellow youngster Karl Alzner. He has become one of the best two-way defenseman in the NHL. Prior to the start of the current season, he had picked up 91 points while playing in each of Washington’s 212 regular season games, and has averaged at least 21:52 on the ice per game in each season.
There is no doubting that this is a level of consistency and capability of handling the physical demands of pro hockey that is rarely seen by youngsters, and normally is handsomely compensated.
Suffice to say, Carlson has quickly become one of the top-10 defensemen in the NHL over the last four years, but will be getting paid like an average defender until the summer of 2018. This is not to say that anything can be done to change his salary, but the Capitals and their fans should show more gratitude for the bargain defender they watch on a nightly basis.