Is Karl Alzner the answer to the Oilers' problems?

Jonathan Willis
May 17 2013 10:19AM

Photo by Michael Miller/Wikimedia

If the Oilers are going to make a heavy pitch for a defenceman they probably aren’t going to get, that defenceman shouldn’t be Shea Weber. It should be the Washington Capitals’ Karl Alzner.

Why Alzner?

What kind of defenceman do the Oilers want to add on their blue line? Ideally, they would obtain somebody young who can be a fit in a top-four role on the left side for years to come. It should be a player who skates well and is capable of moving the puck. A player used to seeing top opponents would be a good fit, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt if he had size on his side.

Enter Karl Alzner. The 6’3”, 213 pound defender turns 25 in September. He averaged a hair under 21 minutes per game in Washington this season, playing 17:17 at even-strength and 2:34 in short-handed situations. Here in part is how Matthew Coller, writing for Hockey Prospectus described him last summer:

Karl Alzner has turned out to be one of the league’s top stay-at-home defensemen. His size and skating ability make life difficult for forwards trying to enter the offensive zone and his hands make fast breakouts of the Capitals’ offense possible… Alzner is an All-Star caliber defenseman who is underpaid at $1.3 million; a restricted free agent after 2012-13, the former Calgary Hitman looks due for a major payday.

Going by behindthenet.ca’s quality of competition statistics, Alzner has led the Capitals blue line in two of the last three seasons; he has also been heavily leaned on in the defensive zone.

Why a trade is just barely possible

Photo by Michael Miller/Wikimedia

Then why on Earth would the Capitals trade Alzner? The answer is that they likely would not; he’s an excellent defenceman and the kind of guy every team wants. What opens the door, at least a little bit, is Washington’s salary cap situation. By my count the team has 11 forwards, six defencemen and two goaltenders signed for next year with a total cap hit of $58 million, leaving them somewhere in the range of six million to replace second-line centre Mike Ribeiro, sign restricted free agents Alzner and Marcus Johansson (34GP – 6G – 16A – 22PTS) and add one other player to the roster. It’s a tight fit.

A lot depends on how much money Alzner wants; there hasn’t been much in the way of news on contract negotiations yet (Washington’s season having ended only recently) but he’s one of those players who can be difficult to value because his primary contributions are defensive. On the one hand, he’s a top-two even-strength defenceman; on the other he’s a guy who had five points this year. He’s coming off a two-year contract where he earned less than $2 million per season; it seems a safe bet the Capitals will work hard to keep the dollars on his next deal modest.

An offer sheet is far from an ideal solution, but it might be a possibility here for a motivated Oilers club; more practical might be the threat of an offer sheet. Based on last year’s draft pick compensation rates (the salary cap is dropping, RFA compensation rates likely will too) the Oilers could offer a deal in the $4.0 - $4.5 million/year range and only need to surrender a first and third round pick next year in exchange; it’s a risk but Alzner is a good enough player to justify the trade if the Capitals declined to match. Alternately, the Oilers could threaten to offer something in that range and simultaneously offer an enticing package for Alzner’s rights.

The smart money here is on nothing happening, and Alzner re-upping with the Capitals at a modest cap figure sometime this summer. But because the player is such a strong fit for the Oilers’ needs both in the here and now and three years from now, Edmonton should at the very least talk to Washington about what it would take to make a deal happen.

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Recently around the Nation Network

In Vancouver, there seems to be some concern that young restricted free agnet defenceman Chris Tanev might attract an offer sheet from an opposing team. In Chris Tanev's Next Contract, Thomas Drance suggests that the team may need to trade the player:

To be clear, I'd much rather see Chris Tanev re-sign in Vancouver and continue to mature while completely owning secondary competition on the third pairing. But the Canucks might be wise to set an internal deadline for a Chris Tanev extension, and shop him in Newark at the 2013 NHL entry draft if the two sides aren't close by then.

 Click the link above to read the whole piece, or feel free check out some recent pieces here at Oilers Nation:

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 gr8one
May 17 2013, 05:10PM
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I'd like to see Mike Green here TBH.

When healthy he is one of the best offensive D men in the league, has a physical element and is actually better defensively than he gets credit for. He is also still only 27 years old and if he gets back to his 60-70 point seasons his cap hit is serviceable as well and has two years left on it.

I know the big issue with him is his health but damn he looked good when he came back this year and in the playoffs.

If Washington is trying to shed salary he'd be the likely candidate.

I know Green is RHD but we could address the LHD vif free agency with someone like Leopold.

A D corps that looks like the following to my eye looks pretty damned good and has balance of stay at home types and offense.

Smid Green Leopold Petry N.Schultz J.Schultz Klefbom/Potter

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#52 gongshow
May 17 2013, 05:25PM
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Hey JW - Not sure if you had an opportunity to catch much of it, but any chance to get your take on how each of the Oil did at World Championships?

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#53 Quicksilver ballet
May 17 2013, 05:30PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

They've already paid the worst of the Weber contract. They're not going to back out now after suffering through that.

As of today, they've only paid him 13 of the 110 million he'll eventually be due. Not sure where you're getting your facts from, but i'd question them if I were you.

In the new CBA, isn't there a provision that allows money to change hands now? His next team could actually reimburse the Preds that July 1st bonus?

13 compared to 110, I don't know what school you went to Jonathan, but that doesn't appear to be anywhere close to 1/4 what he'll eventually be due. Even if he's a Predator this fall. He'll still be due 83 million dollars in the following yrs.

If they were forced into "suffering through that", wouldn't it make getting out from under that other 83 even the least bit appealing? End this so called "suffering" as you called it, no?

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#54 Citizen David
May 17 2013, 05:50PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I haven't answered this because I don't want to wander too far down the hypothetical path. But the Oilers have a number of good young players and prospects beyond the numbers ones, Eberle and Schultz.

Careful, Wayne might hear.

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#55 Citizen David
May 17 2013, 06:00PM
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DSF wrote:

Where you are getting tipped up is believing that all teams use thew same development process as the oilers...that is throwing young players into the deep end and hoping they don't drown.

However, that is not the case.

Deeper teams like Anaheim, Detroit, Chicago etc. instead build their teams with solid veterans surrounding their marquee players and force their young guns to EARN a spot on the roster.

Anaheim, for example had Getzlaf, Koivu, Winnik and Steckel playing very defined roles on their team meaning a 21 year old player like Holland has a hill to climb before he can makes the roster.

You may notice that, while Gagner appeared to be one of the highest scoring players in his draft because he got HUGE opportunity in his first few seasons, that other players are starting to pass him by as they get their opportunities.

Players like Voracek, Couture, Shattenkirk, Pacioretty, Perron and Subban, who were all drafted after Gagner, are passing him by.

Tallon's prospect pool is considered to be the best in the league

http://www.hockeysfuture.com/team-rankings/

and, although you seem to think the Oiler way is the best way, I suggest you try and take a more balanced view.

Good teams don't rely on rookies the way the Oilers do and even Tallon and the Florida organization are much more patient with their prospects which is why rookie of the year candidate Huberdeau was sent back to junior while a player like Justin Schultz was allowed to twist in the wind when things went south.

And, since you seem to be enamoured of plus/minus, might I remind you that Schultz finished the season with a sparkling -17

Logan Couture- fantastic hockey player, huge fan. I'd say 7 teams missed on this one cause he's the best in the draft after Kane.

Jakub Voracek- good player, Gagner has a handful more points, they have the same points per game.

Max Pacioretty- Gagner has a lot more points, they have the same points per game.

David Perron- Gagner has a handful more points, Perron has a worse points per game, is injury prone and the same size as Gagner.

P.K. Subban- every team in the league passed on him. Are you going to get on teams cases for passing on Lindstrom, Chara, Weber, Letang who were all after the first round? These things happen.

Kevin Shattenkirk- good player, I would rather have him than Gagner but just barely. How would he fare playing on Edmonton and not St.Louis?

Do you know who Minnesota drafted with the 16th overall pick? Colton Gillies... Enough said.

Do better.

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#56 DSF
May 17 2013, 06:28PM
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Citizen David wrote:

Logan Couture- fantastic hockey player, huge fan. I'd say 7 teams missed on this one cause he's the best in the draft after Kane.

Jakub Voracek- good player, Gagner has a handful more points, they have the same points per game.

Max Pacioretty- Gagner has a lot more points, they have the same points per game.

David Perron- Gagner has a handful more points, Perron has a worse points per game, is injury prone and the same size as Gagner.

P.K. Subban- every team in the league passed on him. Are you going to get on teams cases for passing on Lindstrom, Chara, Weber, Letang who were all after the first round? These things happen.

Kevin Shattenkirk- good player, I would rather have him than Gagner but just barely. How would he fare playing on Edmonton and not St.Louis?

Do you know who Minnesota drafted with the 16th overall pick? Colton Gillies... Enough said.

Do better.

You missed my point entirely.

Those Oilers fans who keep trumpeting Gagner as the Second Coming need a little perspective.

Saying he has the "second most points in his draft class" is just ridiculous.

Sure, he's played more games and had more prime opportunities but that doesn't mean he's the second best player...not even close.

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#57 geno
May 17 2013, 08:19PM
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DSF wrote:

Most of this is nonsense but a few corrections.

Sam Gagner was 4th among Oilers forwards in TOI in his rookie season...not "3rd or 4th line minutes"

He was 3rd in PPTOI.

You mean the Turris who has 5 points in 6 playoff games?

You mean the JVR who just had an 18 goals season? (pro rates to 31 goals)

And Hickey, who played 34 games for Islanders and was +9.

While I agree it was a weak draft, my point remains that Gagner is not blowing away his draft year...he was just afforded a head start on when most young players get a chance.

hickey just got into the league and is a #5 D man at best

yes the kyle turris that had 9 less points than gagner this season and tht has never breached 30 points

yes the JVR that had 6 less points than Gagner and has never breached 40 points.

also no one said he was the 2nd best player from the draft. He has the second most points.

"how dumb of EDM not to draft wayne simmonds 6th overall, he's so much better"

I wonder if at the time of the draft..wait for it...one player is better than another :O. How dumb of PHI not to take Subban 2nd overall! How dumb of LA not to take Benn 4th overall! How dumb of oiler fans to pay attention to a troll and how dumb of oilersnation for not banning him!

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#58 Ryan2
May 17 2013, 09:05PM
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RexLibris wrote:

I remember watching the 2007 draft and one of the early stories of round one was McPhee stumbling as he announced the Washington pick. He wanted Gagner but his scouts liked Alzner better, so when he went to the podium he almost said "from the London Knights" but corrected himself.

I'm not saying that it would be a Gagner for Alzner trade, but if it were it would certainly be one of hockey's little ironies.

A package for Alzner would probably have to be a young defenseman (I would offer Musil) and a young NHL forward, for which Paajarvi seems like the most likely name, then perhaps try to make up the difference with a draft pick.

And at that draft Alzner was the player the Oilers wanted but McPhee snapped him up first. It would be funny if there was a deal where the two were swapped for each other 6 years later.

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#59 gaz
May 17 2013, 11:05PM
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@Ryan2

But, but, but that doesn't fit into DSF's narrative that the Oilers are a bunch of dummies! Shame on you. Everyone knows that the Oilers are the dumbest organization in the league, right DSF?

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#62 Josh Oiler
May 18 2013, 01:27AM
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Hey JW

How come Oilers and Oiler fans think it ridiculous to use Hall Ebz or Nuge as trade bait????

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#63 @Oilanderp
May 18 2013, 08:14AM
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63 comments on an article about Karl Alzner, and maybe 5 comments mention the washington d-man. Great job, once again, ON. Every day I get closer to removing this site from my list.

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#64 Oiler Al
May 18 2013, 08:16AM
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Alzner, plays top minutes, stay at home d-man, blocks shots, a bit of a puck mover, bodychecks,not a thunderous hitter.

To mean this is Smid, all over again. Do you need two of same at $4 million dollars.?

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