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.
the most badass goal in usa hockey history. john carlson scores the WJC-winning goal in 2010 without even looking pic.twitter.com/CEBqEnBbod— Jake Baskin (@baskincase) July 4, 2016
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.
John Carlson is a legitimate top 2 dman in the league. He's being projected to get 7 x $7mil. Devils have both the cap and the opportunity for him. Absolutely have to find a way to get him. pic.twitter.com/M3TUqSTnpI— Saad Hassan (@Skillocity) April 21, 2018
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.