Is Karl Alzner the answer to the Oilers’ problems?

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’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:

  • Quicksilver ballet

    When all else fails, aim low. The Oiler way?

    Had a chuckle when I seen Dave Nonis yesterday commenting on the term “untouchable”. He mentions how it’s a much abused term when it comes to possible player movement. Good to see Terry Jones on the Shea Weber band wagon as well.

    Who were we talking about again…oh, getting that 20th selection from the Caps. Hemsky, and the 37th for Neuvirth and that 20th selection?

      • Quicksilver ballet

        One more year, like the last one, one more season on the outside looking in next April, and i’m sure ownership will be looking to cut costs.

        Maybe they’re there already, no? A guy like yourself can probably see possibilities of why he’d be moving in the next 18 months, no?

        Nobody is untouchable. The money issue alone may be a difficult burden to bear for them already. Give them Ebs,Gagner amd Paajarvi. They’re probably even a better hockey club with these 3.

        We use to say never in a million years here in Edmonton when it came to Gretzky. Sometime common sense takes a vacation. Weber’s not even in that Hall of Fame category yet. Just need one motivated buyer to have them start thinking about it. Lowe did Pronger, maybe he’s motivated to get something started here again.

        Come join the dark side Jonathan. You of all people, need to have an open mind.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            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?

          • You can’t trade a player for a full year after he signs an offer sheet.

            The Predators have paid Weber for this season – his $13MM signing bonus, plus whatever portion of his $1MM salary he gets (that’s likely closer to $14MM than $13MM, though I’m sure an educated man like you understands that).

            As I understand it, July 1 is the date for Weber’s signing bonuses – I can’t seem to confirm that, but it’s my understanding. Which means he gets another $13MM before Nashville can trade him.

            That’s a total of $27MM of the $110MM face value of Weber’s contract. Or, almost exactly one quarter.

            Edit to add: I don’t have time to look now, but off the top of my head I believe the new CBA allows for teams to retain money, not to trade money for a player.

          • Eddie Edmonton

            Can you please explain this further?

            Paid the worst of the contract? Which was? What are they paying him the rest of the way?

            Why do you think they’ll be stubborn and suck just because they got had by one agent?

          • From the link above:

            The signing bonuses mean that by the time Weber could be traded by the Predators, they will have paid $27 million of the $110 million on his contract – just slightly under one-quarter of his total contract in the first year.

            In one line: 13 years to go and one quarter of the money is already paid.