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

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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.

Bolts close gap on struggling Bruins in playoff race

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Well, that was quite a third period.

For the Boston Bruins, it was disastrous. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it propelled them to a critical victory in the playoff race.

Nikita Kucherov completed the hat trick with a pair of goals in the final period and Jonathan Drouin scored what would eventually be the winner, as Tampa Bay snapped its own three-game losing streak in a 6-3 victory, putting the Bolts within three points of the final wild card spot — held by the Bruins — in the Eastern Conference.

The Drouin goal — his 18th of the season but first since Feb. 19, a span of 13 games — is probably one Tuukka Rask would like back.

Drouin teed up the slap shot from the faceoff circle, beating Rask under the left arm.

And just like that, the Bruins have lost four consecutive games. On Saturday, they face the New York Islanders, another team looking to catch Boston in the wild card race.

Read more: Remember this stretch if Bruins settle for a wild card spot (or worse?)

The Islanders are only two points back of Boston.

Despite the win, there was bad news for the Lightning during this game, as defenseman Jason Garrison left with an injury.

From NHL.com:

The play occurred behind the Lightning goal, Garrison appearing to get his left leg rolled up from behind by a Bruin. Garrison had to be helped off the ice by Anton Stralman and Brayden Point and headed back to the Bolts’ locker room.

The team announced during the second intermission that Garrison sustained a lower-body injury. He did not return to the game.

Video: Ovechkin rocks custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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As promised, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin rocked a pair of custom skates in honor of Russian Heritage Night on Thursday.

On his right skate, he paid tribute to the United States with a custom design, and paid tribute to his home nation on his left skate while taking the pre-game warm-up prior to facing the Columbus Blue Jackets.

He’ll be auctioning off the skates, as well.

From CSN Mid-Atlantic:

The skates were painted by noted custom shoe artists Nick Avery and Polo Kerber, whom Ovechkin personally selected. The skates feature the U.S. and Russia flags as well as the Capitol Building and Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral.

Video: Crosby slash leaves Methot’s finger bloodied and injured (Updated)

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Sidney Crosby has made news lately for his goal scoring and his use of the stick.

He speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt the other night, and on Thursday he delivered a slash to Senators defenseman Marc Methot, who has since not returned to the game.

The slash rendered a finger on Methot’s left hand bloodied and injured. It certainly didn’t look good as Method (calmly) skated to the bench.

There was no call on the play.

Updated: Methot won’t return to this game.

Show me the money! Nylander sets Leafs rookie record with latest assist

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Toronto’s talented rookies were back at it again Thursday, as William Nylander and Auston Matthews combined to set up the Maple Leafs’ first goal versus the New Jersey Devils.

Nylander added the second assist on the power play goal, giving him 35 helpers on the season.

That’s significant for a couple of reasons: He extends his point streak to 10 games, which sets a new Leafs rookie record. And the assist reportedly secured him another entry-level bonus:

Not bad.