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Alzner was the fifth overall pick in the 2007 draft, despite not having much offensive upside. His steady presence on the blue line, especially for his age, has gotten him to this point.

“When you don’t worry about a guy when he’s on the ice that’s a good thing,” Caps assistant and former Bears coach Bob Woods said. “And Karl is just one of those guys. When he’s out there you can take a deep breath and know that he’s probably going to make the right decisions. … For him to be as young as he is to be that type of player, it’s a positive.”

Seeing as how Alzner doesn’t turn 23 until September and fellow top-pair defenseman John Carlson is still 21, the Caps expect to have a bright future on the blue line.

But that’s another reason Alzner took a little less this time — because if he improves, he could be set for a major pay day. In two years when this deal is up, he’ll again be a restricted free agent (per the current collective bargaining agreement). But as Barry said, if Alzner continues this pace of improvement, “that time he’ll be in a whole different class.”

“I think a lot of guys, their ambition is to be able to play really well and then be rewarded for that by winning a Stanley Cup and by being able to sign a bigger ticket than your one before,” Alzner said. “It’s not the main focus, obviously, but it is something that you think about.

“This is that one contract that you maybe have to take something that isn’t your first thing that you wanted. Hopefully, I play good these next few years and the next contract is something that is really something to see. I guess it’s up to me now.”