The Habs have agreed to terms on a five year contract worth $4.625 million per season with defenceman Karl Alzner. This was officially confirmed by the Montreal Canadiens shortly after the Free Agency period began at noon today.
The 28 year old had spent the entirety of his nine year career with Washington, who drafted him 5th overall back in 2007. His reputation is that of a shutdown defender who emphasizes shot blocking. While the modern analytics view those elements in a more negative light (if you’re blocking shots, the puck is in your defensive zone which isn’t ideal), it is something Montreal has seemed to prioritize in recent years.
This past season, Alzner played in all 82 regular season games (playing in every game for the seventh straight year), scoring three goals and ten assists. Those numbers aren’t much lower than what he has put up in the previous three years, which were between 18-21 each time. He also logged an average of 19:47 per game while blocking 162 shots. He played through a broken bone in his hand in the playoffs and as a result, was used as a situational seventh defender which is why his average ice time (15:45) was considerably lower in the postseason.
The contract calls into question the future of Andrei Markov. Alzner isn’t a great fit alongside Shea Weber on the top pairing in terms of playing style; instead, he might pair up better with Jeff Petry. However, Montreal doesn’t have the type of cap room as things currently stand to afford this contract plus one for Markov, nor is Markov an ideal fit on the top pairing at this stage of his career anyways.
The Habs are heading into today with about $18.5 million to work with in cap space with 20 players to sign (assuming youngsters Jacob de la Rose, Charles Hudon, and Jakub Jerabek are all on the roster). This would put them down to a maximum of $14 million to use with Markov, Alexander Radulov, and Alex Galchenyuk still needing new deals.