Off-Season Targets: John Carlson


The only time the Edmonton Oilers have went big game hunting and come out with their target in free agency was back in 2016. That July, Peter Chiarelli went to market looking for a top-six power-forward. He came home with his man, Milan Lucic.

While that signing hasn’t worked out as planned, it isn’t crazy to think that Chiarelli will once again try his hand this July. His target is likely to be out of reach, thanks to a testy cap situation, but the worst answer he can get is no.

John Carlson is a top-pairing, right-shot defender who checks off every single box the Edmonton Oilers could possibly come up with. In a lot of ways, this really is a match made in heaven.

Why Is He Out There?:

Carlson, after spending his whole professional career in Washington, will see his contract expire on July 1st. He’s due for a big raise, and is likely upping his value with a really strong start to the playoffs this spring.

There is no doubt the Capitals would like to keep him, but in the end Carlson may just price himself out of D.C. and find his way to a new market with a much nicer contract in hand. This is all about the money as to why he is available.

What Does He Do Well?:

When it comes to offense, Carlson does everything well. In my mind, we are talking about one of the ten best offensive defenders in the NHL. In a league geared towards speed and skill now, that has immense value.

Carlson averaged 24:47 time-on-ice per night this season and was a real workhorse for the Capitals. His Corsi for percentage (via hockey reference) is slightly underwhelming at 49.2%, but he’s still a dominant player.

Carlson posted boxcars of 15-53-68 in 82 games this year, the best season of his career. It’s also the second time (55 points in 2014-15) that he’s hit the 50 point plateau.

Carlson has posted at least 35 points in each of the last five seasons and has become one of the best powerplay weapons in the NHL. Very few defenders are as good as he is, in my mind, when it comes to the man advantage.

Here’s a look at Carlson’s scouting report via The Hockey News.

Assets: Can be effective in a shutdown role, due to his mobility and instincts. Has the ability to be an explosive offensive player from the back end as well, and also possesses size and aggressiveness. Shoots the puck very well.

Flaws: While he has the size, strength and aggressive play to be more of a physical presence on the ice, he tends to not go for the big hit most of the time. Therefore, he could stand to keep opposing forwards more honest.

Career Potential: Excellent all-around defenseman.

Where Will He Play/Where Should He Play?:

Carlson is a top-pairing defender in this league and would slide onto that unit for over half of the teams in the NHL. No offense to Adam Larsson, but the Oilers are in that group.

In Edmonton, Carlson would take over as the club’s top right-shot option and would anchor the top powerplay unit.

What Will He Cost?:

Does Daryl Katz have another chain of drug stores to sell, because we could use that money for this contract alone. In all seriousness, Carlson is going to get a major raise on the $3,966,667 cap hit he currently holds. I think it’s possible that, if Carlson hits the open market, he’ll land a seven year deal worth between $7-$8 million a season.

He’s going to be that sought after.

Closing Argument:

Carlson is, in every sense of the phrase, a perfect fit for the Edmonton Oilers, He’s a veteran defender, a right-shot, a top-pairing option and plays the game fast while providing elite offensive production from the blueline. The Oilers would be foolish to not put in a call.

In the end, however, Carlson is nothing more than a dream. As a kid born and raised outside of Boston, he likely decides to stay east in free agency near family and friends. He’s also going to be far too pricey for the Oilers, who are in dire cap position.

It’s fun to think about it, and we at least have to entertain the possibility, but it just isn’t happening.

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