With the fifth overall pick in 2007 the Washington Capitals drafted a star defensemen from the Calgary Hitman, one with 47 points in 63 games who could shut down opposing forwards. Since then Karl Alzner has played 789 regular season and playoff games for the Washington Capitals organization. He’s been around for the remaking of the Caps, winning two Calder Cups with the Hershey Bears. In Hershey he played alongside future NHL stars few people had ever heard of — guys like Braden Holtby.
Alzner began playing in Washington during the 2008-09 season, dressing for 30 games. He would later play 599 straight games in red, white, and blue.
“We consider this home,” Alzner said, referring to his wife Mandy and their two children who were born in the DC area. “Whenever we say we’re going home or we’re filling out any paperwork, this is home.”
“We’ve met a lot of great people and we love it here,” he continued.
But now Alzner is an unrestricted free agent. Speaking Friday, Alzner knew he may have played his final game with the Caps.
The Capitals finished last season with just $39,490 in salary cap room. Unfortunately for Washington, TJ Oshie, Justin Williams, Daniel Winnik, and trade deadline rental Kevin Shattenkirk are UFAs like Alzner. Restricted free agents Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Dmitry Orlov, and Nate Schmidt are all due significant pay raises.
Schmidt all but took Alzner’s place in the lineup after the latter got injured in Game One of the first round, ending his long consecutive games-played streak when the team sat him for Game Three. Alzner indicated during the second round that he felt he could have continued playing and that the team was keeping him out due to Schmidt’s stellar play in his stead.
On Friday, Alzner showed off his injury to the media. His gruesome broken hand elicited shocked responses from reporters.
“They just broke right in half,” he said of the bones in his hand. “It was, like all my injuries, playable, but we were trying to be safe than sorry and looking down the line hopefully play a little bit longer than this, but it just didn’t work out. It was pretty sucky.”
Alzner confirmed that he was held out after he felt he was healthy.
“After that second game went to double overtime, it just blew up, looked like a boxing glove and I couldn’t get my hand around the ball of the mic,” he said, offering some unpleasant details of injury, which occurred on a shot block in the first period of the playoffs. “That was when we were just like of like, ‘Okay, let’s give it a game, rest it,’ and it would’ve been fine for the next game, but that was out of my hands at that point. I wasn’t making the decisions. If it was up to me, I would’ve been there for Game Three and the rest of the way, but I didn’t get to make the choice.”
Schmidt had the speed to compete with the best the fast Leafs and Penguins had to offer. The young offensive defensemen took a spot on the first unit. He was paired with John Carlson, Alzner’s previous partner.
“Schmitty, the first game he came in he was awesome, just everything he was doing,” Alzner said. “And he took off from there.”
Alzner eventually played as the team’s seventh defenseman, but the Capitals will not use that lineup when October rolls around.
After 10 years in the organization and seven full seasons in Washington, Alzner, 28, may be forced to find a new home.
“They make their decisions upstairs,” Alzner said Friday, referring to general manager Brian MacLellan and the rest of the Capitals’ front office. “The most interesting thing will be to see how talks go with the team here first. I don’t really even know where they stand, but the way a lot of guys played this year, I think there are a few guys that are pretty high on the priority list. We’ll see what happens. I’d like to see what people think of me around the league, but at the same time I’m comfortable here. There’s things that are more important to me than testing the waters. Business is business, and I don’t really know how I’ll fit into the makeup here if things get blown up, but we’ll find out.”
Headline photo: Patrick Smith
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