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Why Stamkos Stayed in Tampa and Why Karl Alzner Came so Cheap for Washington

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 26:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning is checked by Karl Alzner #27 of the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on November 26, 2010 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images
Jack SouleCorrespondent IJuly 30, 2011

It is no longer news that George McPhee, general manager of the Washington Capitals, did incredible work this summer during the first half of the NHL's free agency period. 

In fact, I'm surprised that we haven't seen more articles here on Bleacher Report or in other hockey blogs with titles such as "George McPhee Commits Grand Larceny" or "Capitals' McPhee is Most Brilliant General Manager in All of Hockey."

Coincidentally, I was in the process of writing a long article giving 15 reasons why the Caps were not one of the league's elite teams, why they would never have won a Cup the way they were.

There were a great deal of things that separated Washington's Red Army from marching to victory in Lord Stanley's playoffs.

Then McPhee completely turned the character if his team around.

The man took a look at his team, saw its flaws and fixed pretty much every single problem anyone could imagine that the constant playoff heart-breakees could possibly have.

Sure, Roman Hamrlik and Joel Ward are coming to the Nation's Capital at a little bit of a high cost. But look at how McPhee and the Capitals fared with their two key RFAs, Semyon Varlamov and Karl Alzner.

Varlamov was traded in return for a first-round pick—one which has a good chance of being in the lottery for the first-overall pick—and a second-round pick when, if he had been signed to an offer sheet instead of being traded, he was only worth a second-round pick. Not to mention, Varlamov could've walked to the KHL and brought nothing in return.

Karl Alzner was the longest drawn-out segment of the free agency period. The situation was never high-drama as Alzner was expected to stay in DC—their was simply a difference in opinion over Alzner's worth between Alzner's camp and the Capitals front office.

Alzner ended up signing in D.C. for much less than a lot of people thought he was worth.

When Alzner told the media that there was a small discrepancy between his view of his worth and what the Caps were willing to offer him, I suspected that the Caps thought he was worth around $2 million and Alzner wanted $2.5 or $2.75 million. 

If I were a general manager in the NHL, I would've offered Alzner at least $2 million. He was half of one of the league's best shut-down pairings last year. He's a classy guy, plays hard, is big and strong and does well in all aspects of the game.

That's a guy worth a lot in my mind.

Three weeks ago, Alzner was signed to a contract worth $1.285 million per year for two years.

Strange, right? I would have thought Alzner would be worth a lot more than either Jeff Schultz or Tom Poti, who make $2.75 million and $2.875 million, respectively.

McPhee was also able, because of the short length of the contract, ensure that he retains Alzner's RFA negotiating rights at the end of the new contract.

There's a reason why.

There were only a few big names that really made a story during this summer's free agency. Fortunately, the bidding-war over Brad Richards wasn't long and drawn-out like it was for Ilya Kovalchuk in 2010.

Aside from that, Steven Stamkos was the other big name guy this summer. However, he was coming off of his entry-level contract, so Tampa retained his negotiating rights and did not trade them to anyone.

Many fans and analysts alike enjoyed much speculation about who might extend Stamkos an offer sheet—and of course someone was going to extend him an offer sheet, right?

Wrong.

No general mangers sent the young star an offer sheet. It was suspected Toronto would be a heavy bidder. Some also claimed that Boston might've been willing to give up the four first-round picks that it would've cost them had they extended an offer sheet.

Well, nobody extended an offer sheet to Stamkos and he ended up signing a five-year deal to stay in Tampa.

There's a reason why.

Karl Alzner came cheap, and Steven Stamkos never had an offer sheet coming his direction for the same reason. For anyone who hasn't picked up on this yet, there's a Gentlemen's Code among the general managers in the NHL.

Sure, we've seen some offer sheets extended. But most of the GMs understand that they need to be able to work together and, to a certain extent, trust each other.

Here's why Karl Alzner came so cheap—and just one more reason why he's probably the league's brightest GM.

McPhee extended a low qualifying offer to let all the other league GM's know that he had every intention of keeping this player. Then GM low-balled Alzner—he gave him a contract that was nice and affordable for the Caps but definitely undervaluing Alzner a bit.

Alzner didn't like the contract and so he waited out free agency, seeing if anyone would offer him more money or give him any leverage against McPhee.

McPhee knew an offer sheet wouldn't come.

In a well-calculated and brilliant move, McPhee allowed Alzner to just sit on the RFA market for a few weeks. Alzner probably then realized that nobody else wanted him and so Alzner really had no leverage in negotiations and had to take the contract amount McPhee had already extended.

Steven Stamkos wasn't extended an offer sheet because the General Managers know that they can't go around poaching each other's stars and driving up contract prices in bidding wars.

That would be no good for anyone.

Alzner and Stamkos' situations concluded the way they did simply because hockey is, in fact, still a gentlemen's sport.

Perhaps this is the reason why the Capitals got so much in return for Semyon Varlamov, who was traded to Colorado in exchange for a 2012 first-round pick and second-round pick.

Perhaps this will all change when the new CBA is written up following the conclusion of the current one after this year, and there are always a few GM's who play a bit dirty when interacting with other teams, but for the most part, these guys operate in a classy way, keeping star players' salaries down and keeping bridges unburned for potential big-name trades later on down the road. 

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