The Washington Times - July 15, 2011, 10:03AM

Capitals fans can now breathe easily – the team has re-signed defenseman Karl Alzner.

Alzner and the Caps on Friday agreed to a two-year deal worth $2.57 million that will keep the young shutdown defender in Washington.

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“We are pleased to have re-signed Karl Alzner to a two-year contract,” GM George McPhee said in a statement released by the team. “We feel he’s an important part of our defensive core who logs critical minutes against other teams’ top players.”

A restricted free agent, there was never a real likelihood that he would depart, but his questionable status had technically left the door open for offer sheets and the very slim possibility.

The 22-year-old Alzner played all 82 games last season for the Caps and established himself as arguably the team’s best defenseman. He had two goals and 10 assists but was relied on for his poise and responsible play more than his ability to put up points.

Agent J.P. Barry told The Washington Times on multiple occasions that he and Caps assistant general manager Don Fishman had been negotiating for months to narrow a “gap” the two sides had. That’s in the past now, and the organization can move on to thinking about the 2011-12 NHL season.

After some rest and relaxation following this week’s development camp, of course.

“Our summer begins next week when this is over and some of us are gonna take a little bit of a break,” general manager McPhee said Monday.