Focus turns to new deal for Capitals’ Karl Alzner

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One of the biggest unresolved situations for the Washington Capitals this offseason revolves around Karl Alzner, the 22-year-old who has developed into a shutdown defenseman.

He’s set to become a restricted free agent Friday at noon, though the Caps still own his rights. But his agent, J.P. Barry, told The Washington Times there’s still “a gap to close” between Alzner and the Caps in regard to a new contract.

“We were negotiating for a couple of months. We both have worked up our positions,” Barry said Thursday. “We’re not there yet — we have a gap to work on.”

Barry wouldn’t say how big that gap is or comment on whether Alzner would be receptive to offer sheets. Any team can present an offer sheet beginning at noon, but the Caps have the right to match.

Washington made a qualifying offer to Alzner, though Barry said there still is some time before his client must decide to accept it to remain with the team for the 2011-12 season.

A day after the season ended, Alzner said he’d “love” to be back.

“This team has still got a great chance, if everybody that’s here decides to come back and everyone sticks around,” he said. “With the playoffs and all that, we kind of have everything behind us.”

Alzner had two goals and 10 assists this past season while playing all 82 regular-season games. But more important than the stats, he quickly became one of the team’s top two defensemen along with John Carlson.

“To be put in that situation, that means a lot to me from the coaches that they respect me enough as a player and think highly enough that me and John as two young guys — 22 and 21 — can do that,” Alzner said May 5. “I really appreciate that, because I think that’s really going to help my development in the rest of my career.”

Talks likely won’t resume until after a busy day on the unrestricted market, but Barry said he is optimistic about working out a deal with the Caps.

“We did a lot of work together. Myself and [assistant general manager] Don Fishman talked for a while,” Barry said. “They know where we stand on what Karl’s projection is as a player, and they’ve done the same.”

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