(Photo credit: Michael Miller)
Twenty-eight-year-old John Carlson is having a career year for the Washington Capitals having put up 55 points already this season. Washington is in cap-hell at the moment and will be hard-pressed to sign Carlson to a new contract so it is highly likely that he could walk away for nothing this summer.
1 Toronto Maple Leafs
Which contending team has the biggest need for a right-handed defenseman? Toronto. The Leafs are a top heavy team - their attacking power is arguably the best in the league but their defense is mediocre at best.
Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner are their two best defensemen but neither are truly a number one guy. Timothy Liljegren represents a great prospect for the Leafs who could be a top guy within the next few years - but the Leafs window is open now and they need to capitalize on it.
Some big contracts are off the books this summer including James Van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov so Toronto has room to maneuver. July 1st also represents an opportunity for the Leafs to negotiate new deals with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner - this will give them a great chance to see if they can afford a bumper deal for Carlson.
If the Leafs have Matthews, Nylander and Marner signed with room to spare then you can expect the team to go heavy on a Carlson signing.
2 Vegas Golden Knights
The Knights were reportedly all in on Erik Karlsson at the trade deadline but could not get the deal done. No doubt the Knights could go back for the Senators captain this summer - but if they strike out again is it unreasonable to expect them to make a push for Carlson?
George McPhee has assembled a great roster in Vegas but lacks star power. Carlson represents a great opportunity for Vegas to tie down a big star over a long period while solidifying their defense.
The Knights have bundles of cap space to make a deal work and could entice Carlson easily with money and warm weather. Plus Carlson would join a side that is a legitimate contender. So money, contending and weather - the three pillars a free agent looks for are all filled by the Knights.
3 Edmonton Oilers
Everyone in the hockey world felt that Edmonton would be contending for the playoffs rather than the draft lottery this season - but here we are. The Oilers have been poor from the off this season and their fans have become exasperated at the fact that they have the league’s best player in Connor McDavid but have been nowhere near the playoffs.
Peter Chiarelli is on borrowed time and he will need to make a big move this summer that will capture the imaginations of the Oilers fans if they are to put their trust back in him.
Carlson represents a way to rectify a poor defense and a statement to the rest of the league that Edmonton will be contenders next season. Carlson joins a team that has Connor McDavid and cap room to get the deal done.
4 Montreal Canadiens
It seems to be common knowledge that the Canadiens are going to be in on John Tavares this summer if he makes it to free agency. But what if Tavares signs elsewhere? The Canadiens will need to spend their cap room somewhere and Carlson will greatly improve a poor defense.
Marc Bergevin may not even see to free agency, but if he does he needs to transform his team into a contender. Yes, the Canadiens need a center, but they also need help on the blue line - if they got Carlson and a top line center then they jump from being a joke into a contender.
Montreal cannot afford to let Carlson pass them by this summer.
5 Dallas Stars
Could Jim Nill pull off a big move this summer and land Carlson?
Well, the Stars GM is one of the most interesting in the league and he makes moves that are bold. Signing Carlson would really give Dallas a chance to dominate a loaded Central Division.
If you look at the Stars blueline there is a lack of star power after John Klingberg. If the Stars acquired Carlson, they would have two of the best offensive defensemen in the league. Add to that their exciting forward line and you have a recipe for success.
The final important thing to consider for a Carlson signing is cap space - the Stars have bundles of it this summer. They really can go all in on signing the talented defenseman.
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