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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

UFA Profile: John Carlson is a perfect but extremely expensive fit in Edmonton

This is a multi-part series in which I’ll look at the major free agents on the open market and whether or not they’d be a fit on the Oilers. 

The Oilers need a puck-moving defenceman with a right-handed shot. They have a bevy of left-shooting defenders and a gaping hole on the right side of their blueline. While Ethan Bear shows some promise, the Oilers also lack a true offensive catalyst who can quarterback a power play and produce offence from the point.

There’s a perfect fit on the open market this summer. His name is John Carlson. Unfortunately for the Oilers, he’s a perfect fit on a lot of different teams. You know what that means? He isn’t going to come cheap.

Who is John Carlson?

He was drafted by the Capitals in the first round of the 2009 NHL draft but he really made a name for himself at the World Juniors in 2010 when he scored seven points in seven games to help the United States to a gold medal win in Canada. I remember this WJC particularly well because it was hosted in Edmonton and Calgary, Team Canada featured Oilers top prospect Jordan Eberle and soon-to-be first-overall pick Taylor Hall, and because of Carlson’s heartbreaking overtime goal.

It didn’t take Carlson long to establish himself at the NHL level. He broke into the league as a full-time player in 2010-11 with a 37-point rookie season and slowly took over the role of Washington’s offensive defenceman from Mike Green over the years. Carlson, now 28 years old, is a veteran of 608 NHL games through parts of nine seasons. Over his career, Carlson has averaged 0.55 points-per-game, but his production has increased in recent years as he’s taken on a more significant role on the team.

Carlson led the NHL in points among defencemen this season with 15 goals and 53 assists in 82 games. If you didn’t notice during the season because you don’t care about the Washington Capitals, you’ve more than likely noticed his excellent performance during the playoffs. Carlson has played a key role in Washington finally getting over the hump and beating the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has 14 points in 14 games in the playoffs, good for a Capitals franchise record.

Does he fit on the Oilers?

Absolutely. This is a very, very easy one to answer. Carlson is exactly what the Oilers are looking for on the blueline right now. You could sign him and slot him in on the team’s top pair on the right side next to Oscar Klefbom and you’d have yourself a hell of a pairing that could move the puck up the ice with ease. Unfortunately, it won’t be that simple.

The Oilers already have about $65 million in cap commitments invested into next season giving them roughly $20 million to work with. They need to figure out new deals for Darnell Nurse, Matt Benning, Ryan Strome, and Drake Caggiula, and they need to figure out how to add a forward to their top six.

Carlson picked a damn good time to have a career year. He’s set to his the open market for the first time and he’s going to get a massive raise on the $3,966,667 annual figure he signed back in 2012. As Ray Ferraro suggests above, Carlson should command seven years, $7,000,000 per. Ferraro goes on to say that Carlson won’t sign in Canada, but I’m not sure that’s based on anything other than pure conjecture.

The best comparison for Carlson would be a similar offensive defenceman in Kevin Shattenkirk who inked a shockingly team-friendly deal to play with his hometown New York Rangers last summer. Shattenkirk’s deal is worth $6,650,000 over just four years, which is well shy of the seven-by-seven figure most projected him at. Shattenkirk’s $6,650,000 would be Carlson’s basement while Brent Burns’ $8,000,000 annual deal would probably be his ceiling.

Could the Oilers throw $7,500,000 at Carlson this summer? Sure, but they would have to shed some salary first. In order to make a big free agent add to the blueline, Edmonton would have to either dump Andrej Sekera’s $5,500,000 or Kris Russell’s $4,000,000 cap hit. That obviously isn’t going to be easy.

In sum, Carlson is probably the perfect fit for this Oilers team. Unfortunately, since Edmonton has handed out large UFA deals three summers in a row to Sekera, Milan Lucic, and Russell, there simply isn’t space to fit Carlson into the picture unless Peter Chiarelli can somehow manage to dump one of those big contracts.

  • Gravis82

    We are spending too much on backup goalies and replacement level players and big names who don’t produce what their salary suggests to finally be able to afford the player we actually need.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      It doesn’t matter because John Carlson is not signing here. If he doesn’t sign again in Washington, my guess is that only a handful of Northeast teams like Philly, Rangers or Devils, perhaps the Bruins are the teams he will likely go to if he has a choice and depending on team budgets and so forth.

      • 24% body fat

        Well if the Oilers improved on last year. Didn’t have Russel and Lucic. And trudeau and Notley didn’t raise taxes Edmonton would be a viable if not great attraction to UFAs

      • Big Nuggets

        Precisely why the Russell contract was a poor decision. Tied our hands for acquiring better players in the future. There have been many articles lately about the big names available this offseason and the Oilers don’t have the ability to acquire any of them. People can dream of adding Carlson but we don’t have the space to even acquire Mike Green.

        • Oilman99

          The Russell contract is not the problem. Over pay,no trade contract for Lucic,and overpay for Drai are what has handcuffed the Oilers. In today’s world, the Russell deal is not so bad,and contrary to what many haters state, he is a serviceable player.

          • Big Nuggets

            Yeah, but it was much easier to see the writing on the wall when Chia signed Russell. There were many moves yet to be made when we signed Lucic. Maybe we could have saved a million on Drai’s contract but I guess Draisaitl’s agent was negotiating pretty hard for that contract judging by how scared Chia was of an offersheet. Also Draisaitl is a key player on this team. Russell and Lucic not so much.

  • TKB2677

    Pretending the Oilers could actually make it work. Can anyone tell me which Carlsson the Oilers would be getting that would cost them between 7-8 mill on a probably max term deal? Let’s keep in mind that Carlsson is 28, turns 29 in Jan so he is at his peak right now and will in a couple of years start the decline that most players do who are above 30.

    In the last year before he became a UFA surprise surprise Carlsson had a career year scoring 15 goals and 68 pts in 82 games. So if you are going to be giving him 7-8 mill, are people confident he can score cost to 50 pts for a good chunk of this contract? I looked at his career numbers and he’s scored over 50 twice, this past season being one of them. For the majority of this career, he’s been a mid 30’s guy. You can’t be paying a guy 7-8 mill if he’s a mid 30’s guy.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      Hey if Bobby Mac says it then it must be so! But I think we can all guess that Carlson being an American, playing on a perrenial playoff team in the Northeast and in a high profile American city would likely not to sign at the end of the universe to play long term no matter how much money and term the Oilers throw at him.

    • GK1980

      I wish more players wouldn’t sign in the stages for the same reasons. The cup needs to come back to Canada in I might be biased but it’s also the best damn country in the world!

  • Oil9744

    John Carlson would be the best option this summer, sure it’s gonna be a big cap hit but it’s better then trading away Edmonton’s players and picks to acquire a defencemen in the off season, it’s a big gamble to leave it all up to free agency to bolster up Edmonton’s defence though free agency though, it’s pretty much Carlson or bust on the market right now, If there’s a trade on the table at the draft that makes sense you gotta take it, I’m REALLY liking the top defensive line on Sweden right now with the Larsson pair, can you imagine OEL and Adam Larsson in Edmonton…Yes please.

  • Rama Lama

    “If Peter Chiarelli can dump one of those big contracts”,………..almost chocked on my Hot Dog.

    If this means making a creative deal that will benefit the team both short term and long term………I contend that PC has never made one of these deals. His history is one of getting rid of star players and getting much lower value in return.

  • 24% body fat

    Carlsson would be a great addition. But an article at the athletic does great work showing that his offensive production is a product of Ivie Backstrom and Kuznetsov. Who ever gets him is getting a good player but likely paying too much.

  • Simba99

    Giving a 28 year 7.5 million is about as smart as giving lucic his contract each of these players are closer to the twilight of their careers but this is Chiarelli so stupider things have happened

    • Braindead

      Or it giving a 28 year $7.5 million is about as smart as signing Dustin Byfuglien.
      Oilers will never win the Stanley Cup because the mentality here is all about signing cheap young players and that every other hockey player besides McDavid isn’t worth a penny. Sorry Oilers fans but the teams that are winning, making playoffs every year and winning the Stanley Cup have skilled veteran players making money.

    • Braindead

      Or it giving a 28 year $7.5 million is about as smart as signing Dustin Byfuglien.
      Oilers will never win the Stanley Cup because the mentality here is all about signing cheap young players and that every other hockey player besides McDavid isn’t worth a penny. Sorry Oilers fans but the teams that are winning, making playoffs every year and winning the Stanley Cup have skilled veteran players making money…

  • JimmyV1965

    I hope the Oilers finally learn the lesson not to sign expensive free agents. Carlsson is a middling RHD who will get paid like one of the best in the league. For the love of god, lets stop signing these kind of guys.

  • Hemmercules

    I dont think the Oil could afford the overpay to get this guy even if he wanted to play for the Oilers. The Oilers need to find a cheap gem somehow, or you know, start drafting and properly developing players instead of just paying everyone way too much to play here when they become UFA. Seems like the Oilers have to add a mil per season more than any other team offers just to get them to join or stay on this team. They had that small window when McD first got here where lots of guys became interested but with the management moves this team has made in the last couple years I think the lustre of playing with Mcd has passed. I hope Chia can pull something off this summer to improve the team that doesn’t involve overpays and losing trades. They need to make the playoffs more than one year in a row to actually garner any interest without having to pay extra.

  • TKB2677

    It’s pretty much a given no matter who the GM is or what team it is that when you sign UFA guys you always overpay either in money, term or both. People complain about the Lucic contract being too long or too much money. Yet if you remember who was available at the time he was signed, Lucic was the top UFA winger and he got market value. Okposo was signed at the same time to the same money and the same term. Eriksson was signed at the same time, to the same money with just 1 less year of term. Ladd was signed at the same time to the same term for just a tiny bit less in money. So people can complain about the Lucic contract and that’s fine to do and I am not justifying it what so ever but he got what everyone else got.

    People complain about the Russell contract being too expensive and too long yet Alzner was signed for longer term for more money. Brenden Smith who I believe was waived signed for the same term for slightly more money. Kulikov was signed for slightly more money with one less year and he can’t get in the line up for the Jets. Stone was signed by the Flames for 3 yrs at 3.5 mill and he’s a 5-6 dman for them. So people can complain about the Russell contract and I am not justifying it but he got right in the middle of the market that similar guys were getting.

    The point of my whole post is stay away from other teams older UFA’s. Unless it’s a late in the offseason, short term, no money deal for a vet, you typically are paying for what the player did previously, you are paying a lot for it and they typically do not live up to the contract.

    • CMG30

      Where else was Russell going to sign? Nobody else wanted him because being a third pair defenseman is just not worth the money even if he does block shots. Chirelli had all the leverage and still overpaid.

      • 24% body fat

        oh, and just because another team is willing to overpay for free agency doesnt mean we should or that it is a good move, ex russel and lucic, and nikitan, belesy, clarkson, etc.

        Stay away from free agency unless a player wants to come here, building dynasties and championships is hard work, the UFA shortcut does not work

      • TKB2677

        You know that for a fact? You are an NHL GM or executive and you are stating that NO NHL team had any interest in Russell what so ever because you actually know this too be true. You aren’t just another Russell hating Oiler fan right?

        For the record. I am not a fan of Russell nor am I a fan of the signing. When they signed him the first time for 1 yr, I was OK with it because the Oilers defense wasn’t that great, he’s an NHL dman with experience, something the Oilers defense lacked, depth is always a good thing and it was for 1 yr. That first year, he filled a roll, gave it his all, played his ass off, sacrificed his body and quite frankly did better than I expected. So I can appreciate him for that. But with all the left handers the Oilers had already, I didn’t see the point in resigning him. If they felt absolutely compelled to resign him, I could stomach having him again but I wouldn’t have gone longer than 2 years. Unfortunately they did resign him and it was for 4 years which I think is a mistake. But your comment about no NHL team wanting him is completely ridiculous. Again, I am not a fan of Russell but just because I don’t like a player doesn’t mean I am not foolish enough to say he isn’t an NHL dman because he is. He’d be a 4-5 dman on a lot of NHL teams. Go down the depth chart of a lot of teams and see who they have as their #4-5 and there are some pretty mediocre guys. Look no further than Calgary who has Hamonic and Stone. The only advantage those 2 have over Russell is they are right handed. Hamonic makes 142k less than Russell, he’s a worse skater, a band aid, moves the puck worse, provides even less offense and defensively isn’t really any better.
        Here I am sticking up for a player I don’t even like but as usual Oilers fans comments are so over the top ridiculous, I have no choice.

    • oilerjed

      Waaaaaay too much level headed thought put into this comment. I know you were saying “I am not justifying this signing” after each statement but the truth is that each one of those signings could be justified using your exact thoughts.
      For years many commenters on here were raving on about needing “a Lucic”, they got him and suddenly didnt like what he cost. Now they have moved on to the elusive #1 RHD puck moving defense-man. Guess what people, that is going to cost you as well.
      The cold hard reality is that good players cost money, and it is great to parrot out the new mantra, draft and develop over and over again until loses any if all meaning. The chances of drafting and developing a #1rhd are pretty slim, that is why so many teams are clamoring for them. If it was so easy then RHD would be falling from trees and their value would be nil.
      My point is (while Carlson may not be the guy I would choose) when these dmen become available you do what you have to do and snatch them up.

      • TKB2677

        In my opinion, a team and more specifically the Oilers needs to be staying away from any big name UFA’s. Usually those guys are well into their late 20’s pushing 30. For most players except the elite of the elite, they are usually at their best when they are 22/23 and stay that way until they are 28/30. So when you sign these guys at 27, 28, 29, you are paying them for all of their past accomplishments that they achieved when they were at their absolute peak. Sure they got experience which has value but if you are paying a guy to be a scorer, chances are he won’t score as much at 30 and above that he scored at 25. Plus usually when a player is in his late 20’s, he’s looking for that one last long term, big money deal to completely set him and his family up because he knows that once he hits close to 35, he’s probably got only a few more years left in him if any and he will make considerably less. So there is a huge push and motivation before you sign that big deal to be at your peak to cash in. Once you get that big deal, a huge chunk of guys take their foot off the gas and cost because they have that locked in security. How many times have we seen a guy going into his UFA year have a massive year, sign the big deal, then the next year drop off.

        So if you are signing any UFA’s, I would be going after depth guys or not committing to long term deals.

  • camdog

    If it’s on record that he isn’t going to sign in Canada, that he’s going to stay close to home, then there is absolutely no way that Edmonton can make it work, regardless of cap space. New Jersey has cap space, a good young team and that’s where he’s from.

  • Panda1383

    If only we could trade cap hit to another team…come on Chia get creative. Vegas took some of Brassards cap hit when hey went to Pitt. Surely there is a loop hole somewhere to trade say $2mill of Lucic to Arizona??? Hell Katz could even give incentivize it with a personal loan so the owner there could pay OEL.

  • Moneyball

    If the oilers have 20 million in cap space to sign Benning, Strome, Caggiula and Nurse. That should be 3 million-3.5 for Strome, 3-5 for nurse, 1-2 for Benning, 1-2 for caggiulla. That should leave 8-10 million to go after Carlson.

    • The Whispererer

      As the writer pointed out, the Oilers have ~$65 million committed to next season. However the Cap is expected to increase to $80 not $85 million. That leaves $15, not $20 million. Benning, Nurse, Strome and Caggiula are not the only new contracts needed. The Oilers also need to fit potential ELC bonuses plus a #7 Defenseman and replacement forwards for Slepyshev, Pakarinen and Cammaleri within that $15 million.

        • The Whispererer

          Brilliant !
          You want to toss away a 20-year old 4th overall pick for what ? A 3rd round pick like Yakupov ? What does that accomplish but create another hole at forward that has to be filled ?
          You might want to consider changing your moniker. Finance doesn’t seem to be your strong suit.

          • Reg Dunlop

            No, what’s really brilliant is keeping that 20 year old 4th overall for another year so his value has fully cratered, like what you would do. Talent evaluation doesn’t seem to be your strong suit.

  • Oilerproud

    Why would an american player whos about to cash in on his biggest payday come play in Canada? Hate to say but I wouldnt go from paying 10% in taxes in my home country to paying 47% of my biggest payday to work in a foreign country. Sorry folks doesnt happen unless David Clarkson. Biggest issue amongst Canadian teams presently. Could definitely use him though, and Tavares. Pipe dreams unfortunately

    • Moneyball

      It’s not even close to 10%. I remember a long time ago when the inglewood pub was still operating one of the avalanche lost their pay check about 388k back in the 90’s. The bar tender made a photo copy and put it above the bar and you could also see all tech deductions and tax withholding. There was about 100 left after the government got through with it. An employee making millions is not an entrepreneur that can manage his wealth so the tax rate is hardly 10% is probably even more than it is in ALBERTA.