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Karl Alzner made one final visit to the Caps on Saturday

Karl Alzner made one final visit to the Caps on Saturday

After nine years as a Capital, Karl Alzner couldn’t leave without saying goodbye.

Washington’s longtime Iron Man stopped by Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Saturday to shake hands and say thank you to the Capitals’ training and medical staffs as well as other members of the front office.

“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Alzner told CSN as left the practice facility.

“It’s nice to see all the love from the trainers and stuff,” he continued. “It's going to be a little bit strange. At the same time, I’m excited to get a new opportunity. [Montreal] is the franchise in the league; it’s hockey. I don’t think it really gets much better than that. It’s competitive and [there’s] management and ownership that’s willing to do absolutely anything to win. That’s kind of the dream, for a player that especially hasn’t won a cup yet. So I’m pretty excited about that.”

Alzner signed a five year, $23.1 million deal with the Canadiens for an annual average value of $4.625 million on Saturday. The 28-year-old defenseman earned $2.8 million last season in Washington.

Although Alzner had known for a while that he wouldn’t be returning to the Caps, it didn’t make a hectic process any easier to stomach in recent days.

“It’s been crazy,” said Alzner, who was drafted by Washington 5th overall in 2007. “It hasn’t been a whole lot of fun. A lot of people say this must be awesome, you get the pick of the litter and figure out where you want to go, where you want to live. It's not really that way. For some guys it is. [But] there are so many decisions to make, especially when you have family and roots as deep as we have here. You have to be smart about your decision. We had some really good opportunities and Montreal was definitely the best one.”

As excited as Alzner is to be joining a franchise steeped in tradition and coming off a division title, he also acknowledged that he had a little trepidation—at first, anyway—about the intense scrutiny that players face in a hockey-mad city like Montreal vs. Washington.

“A lot of talking, a lot feeling nauseous at times because me and Mandy are homebodies and we’re pretty private,” he said, referring to his wife. “So there were a lot of uneasy moments but in the end we feel pretty good.”

So now Alzner is a Canadien. But before totally shifting into Montreal mode, he had a stop he needed to make—at the Caps’ rink where he greeted trainers, coaches and other team employees. He was flanked by Mandy.

“These guys are our family,” Alzner said. “We’ve spent a ton of time together. We’re pretty tight and they all wanted to say bye, too. I know that everyone kind of takes off for the summer so we knew was this was probably one of our only opportunities to do that.”

Oh, and there was one more reason he stopped at Kettler.

“And to send a few packages out before I get completely cut off,” he cracked.

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Caps make 17 cuts Sunday, pare roster to 36


Caps make 17 cuts Sunday, pare roster to 36

The Capitals have made another significant round of cuts, reassigning 16 players to AHL Hershey and releasing another.

Among the players headed to the Bears are: forwards John Albert, Mathias Bau, Chris Bourque, Dustin Gazley, Hampus Gustafsson, Tim McGauley, Garrett Mitchell, Mason Mitchell and Wayne Simpson; defensemen Kristofers Bindulis, Connor Hobbs, Tommy Hughes, Lucas Johansen, Hubert Labrie; and goalies Adam Carlson and Vitek Vanecek.

The club also released forward Stephen Collins.

The highest profile cuts were Johansen, the team's first round pick in 2016, and Hobbs. The Caps have high hopes for the young blue liners, but it’s obvious both will benefit from some seasoning in the minor leagues as they make the leap from junior to the pro ranks.

Hershey’s training opens on Monday.

After taking Sunday off, the Caps will return to practice on Monday with a roster of 36 players—and three preseason games left to sort out the position battles.  

Forwards Riley Barber, Travis Boyd, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Graovac, Liam O’Brien, Anthony Peluso, Zach Sill, Devante Smith-Pelly, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana and Nathan Walker are left battling for the three available jobs up front.

Meanwhile, defensemen Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos, Jyrki Jokipakka, Tyler Lewington, Aaron Ness, Jonas Siegenthaler and Colby Williams are competing for the two open spots on the backend.

Although some players, such as Chiasson and Walker, have already begun to separate themselves from the others, you can expect the competition to intensify over the next week. The Caps host the Devils on Wednesday, then play at the Hurricanes on Friday and at the Blues on Sunday.

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Did Barry Trotz show us what his fourth line will be to start the season?


Did Barry Trotz show us what his fourth line will be to start the season?

Barry Trotz likes to play his cards close to the vest. With roster battles and lineup holes surrounding the team, there are plenty of questions for the Caps that need answering this preseason. If you look at how Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes ended, however, he may have given us at least one answer.

At the start of the game, Jay Beagle centered a line with Devante Smith-Pelly and Wayne Simpson on his wings. By the end of the game, Nathan Walker was playing on the left with Beagle at center and Smith-Pelly on the right.

"Walker was giving us some energy, he was giving us some speed and I just made that flip," Trotz told reporters after the game. "I just thought Walks was starting to make things happen. His speed was noticeable, his will on the puck if you will was really good. I thought that'd be a good fit. I just moved him over there and I thought he had an effect on the game."

Could that have been a preview of the team's fourth line?


Walker turned in another tremendous performance showing great energy, speed and grit. Despite being 5-foot-8, he still remains a feisty player who could be found at the center of every scrum. He exchanged hits and jabs with the 6-foot-3 Klas Dahlbeck multiple times throughout the game and even drew a penalty on the Carolina defenseman as he drove the net after managing to slip away from a hit along the boards.

"He's one of those hard guys to play against because ... they're on you all the time," Trotz said. "When you can affect the opposition and take them out of their game because the way you play, then you're pretty effective."

That brings us back to the lines. The Caps have not one, but two openings on the fourth line to play alongside Beagle. The fact that Trotz put Walker and Smith-Pelly on that line, two players fighting for a spot in the lineup, could be a preview of what the fourth line may ultimately look like to start the season.

That would be just fine with Beagle.

"It's fun to play with a guy who brings that much energy," Beagle said of Walker. "He's always had that energy and he's always been a little guy who grinds it out and isn't afraid to get in there and get in the corners and wins a lot of battles. He's awesome to play with. He's a lot of fun."

At this point, given how he has played in his two preseason games, it is hard to see how Walker does not make the roster. His energy and style are a perfect fit for what the Caps need on their fourth line. He would be an excellent compliment to Beagle and that has not escaped Trotz's notice.

"I think they might enjoy playing together, but they're effective together," Trotz said. "They get on the puck, they work you over and they tire you out. I'll tell you that."

With other players such as Alex Chiasson, Riley Barber and Anthony Peluso still vying to make the team, it is still too early to tell if this is definitively what the fourth line will look like, but the trio certainly made their case.