ARLINGTON, Va. — John Carlson would like to re-sign with the Washington Capitals but acknowledged Wednesday there are other factors that will influence whether he explores the market as an unrestricted free agent.
“We’ll see what happens,” Carlson said. “We’ll talk and go from there. I don’t really know what else to say other than that. I love it here and all that. I want to stay here, but there’s more to it than that.”
A 28-year-old right-handed defenseman who can quarterback the power play, Carlson would be one of the most coveted unrestricted free agents available if the Capitals aren’t able to re-sign him before July 1. He led NHL defensemen this season with an NHL career high 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists) and helped Washington win the Stanley Cup for the first time in its 43-season history. Carlson also led defensemen during the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 20 points (five goals, 15 assists), a Capitals record by a defenseman.
“I thought he had an outstanding year, played great in the playoffs,” Washington general manager Brian MacLellan said. “I would really like to have him back on the team.”
MacLellan said he plans to begin contract talks with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, in the coming days.
“We had a meeting somewhere in the middle of the season with [Rick], and we just both agreed let’s play out the season and when the season ends we’ll get in contact with each other,” MacLellan said. “I would anticipate over the next week we’ll have a couple discussions going forward.”
As much as MacLellan would like to re-sign Carlson, he said the NHL salary cap will impact how far the Capitals can go financially.
“We’re going to be limited to a certain extent to what we can offer, but hopefully we can find a spot that satisfies both parties,” MacLellan said.
Washington, as Carlson’s current team, would be able to offer him a maximum eight-year contract. Other NHL teams can sign Carlson for at most seven years.
The Capitals signed Carlson to a six-year, $23.8 million contract in 2012. He could potentially double the annual average value of $3,966,667 from his expiring contract.
Carlson was selected by the Capitals with the No. 27 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft and makes his home in the Washington area year-round. Although he was born in Natick, Massachusetts and grew up in Colonia, New Jersey, he said he plans to have his day with the Stanley Cup here this summer.
“This has been my home,” he said. “I’ve lived here every summer since I’ve been here. This is my home base and, obviously, the guys that I’ve been around, the experiences we’ve had, I love the area and this is all I know.”
Whether that would be enough for Carlson to stay with the Capitals remains to be seen. Carlson said he isn’t sure if winning the Stanley Cup might impact whether he re-signs.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t had any talks with anyone, so I don’t know what you would like me to say. I wish I had all the answers. It will be a process to get those answers.”
Other than re-signing coach Barry Trotz, whose contract is expiring, re-signing Carlson is Washington’s top priority over the remainder of the month. They also would like to re-sign potential unrestricted free agent defenseman Michal Kempny.
The 27-year-old was a good fit playing with Carlson on the second defense pair after being acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 19.
“He seems to really like it, and we’re going to try to work it out here over the next couple weeks,” MacLellan said of Kempny.
The Capitals also have to make decisions on re-signing potential unrestricted free agent forwards Jay Beagle and Alex Chiasson, and defenseman Jakub Jerabek.
Potential restricted free agent forwards Tom Wilson ($2 million) and Devante Smith-Pelly ($650,000) are eligible to file for salary arbitration and could receive significant raises.
Wilson, 24, set NHL career highs with 14 goals, 21 assists and 35 points this season playing on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Smith-Pelly, who turns 26 on Thursday, scored seven postseason goals (equaling his regular-season total), including three in five games in the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights.
With 10 seasons in Washington, Beagle, 32, is the third-longest tenured Capitals player behind Ovechkin (13 seasons) and Nicklas Backstrom (11). Beagle said he’s willing to wait until MacLellan is finished with other business to negotiate his next contract, even if that extends beyond July 1.
“This team has a lot of decisions to make and I don’t want to be a burden or anything on [MacLellan],” Beagle said. “I’ll wait for him to contact me and we’ll go from there. I’m hopeful I’ll be back.”