On September 14, Carlson signed a six-year, $23.8 million contract with the Capitals. And as he told Katie Carrera of The Washington Post, a long-term deal was vital for both his peace of mind and concentration:
I think for me it’s comfort level. Knowing I’m going to be around, that I can focus on myself and the team rather than trying to focus on what comes next. I really like the city, I like the situation being close to home and the team that we have here. So I felt this is what I wanted to do and I was adamant about it.
Now all Carlson has to do is live up to the new contract.
He already lived up to first NHL contract. The 22-year-old defenseman's entry-level deal was good for three years and $2.62 million. In those three seasons, Carlson accumulated 17 goals and 75 points, with a plus/minus rating of plus-17 and 74 PIMs. And in his postseason career, Carlson has five goals and 12 points in 30 games, with a plus/minus of plus-3 and only 12 PIMS.
But Carlson struggled last season. Despite a career-high nine goals, his 23 assists and 32 points were both decreases form the previous season. His 22 PIMs were also a decrease, which was a positive. But his plus/minus was a disastrous minus-15, and as a result his time on ice per game (TOI/G) decreased from the year before to 21:52.
Carlson recovered in the playoffs, however. His time on ice per game increased to 24:02, and had a plus/minus of minus-1 with only eight PIMs as he scored twice and tallied three assists.
How will John Carlson play under his new contract?
And Carlson acknowledged both the good and the bad from last season, as he continued talking to Katie Carrera of the Washington Post:
I felt that, obviously, I wasn’t at my best all season long. But I thought I played great in playoffs. I still think that I can get better and there’s things that I can take from last year, not just for playoffs but for myself to kind of know where I need to be every game. That’s just one of those things that you think a lot about in the summer, and when it comes time to play, I’ll have something I need to work on then.
This self-awareness shows exactly why Carlson will live up to this contract. Carlson knows what is expected of him. He received that original contract because he was expected to play at a certain level. And now that his new contract pays him better, he is expected to play better, as well. He knows he can meet those expectations.
And finally, new head coach Adam Oates will allow Carlson to live up to his contract. Even though Oates' addition has mainly gained attention because of the potential improvements to Alex Ovechkin's game, it could very well help Carlson just as much, if not more.
Oates is a highly intelligent hockey mind who emphasizes defensive responsibility, two-play and the power play. Carlson is adept at all three of these concepts, and will therefore thrive under a coach who emphasizes these aspects of the game of hockey.
And fortunately for the Washington Capitals, they will enjoy Carlson's ever improving services for at least the next six seasons.