March 29, 2018 | 11:50am ET



John Carlson, defenceman


The Washington Capitals have their sights set on the playoffs, but noise over defenceman John Carlson’s future continues to pop up.

Carlson, 28, is in the final year of his contract and can become an unrestricted free agent July 1 if unsigned.

The Capitals want to sign him to a long-term contract extension, a topic they’ll focus on once their season concludes, but the team’s close proximity to the rising salary cap will pose a problem.

If the Capitals cannot move out salary elsewhere, by trading other players, the team might not be able to afford Carlson under the salary cap – his next deal will likely hover between $7 million and $8 million, per season.

TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun discussed this week that a sign-and-trade could be possible this off-season if Carlson wants an eighth-year on his next contract, the max term a player can re-sign for with his current team.

If that occurs, the Capitals can then flip Carlson to another club for a package of assets, instead of losing him for nothing as a free agent.

This topic will heat up in June, closer to the NHL Draft, but the fact that it’s being discussed now means it’s in the minds of those within the Capitals organization and other teams around the NHL who might want to pursue Carlson as a UFA this summer.

Carlson leads all NHL defencemen in scoring with 15 goals and 49 assists for 64 points in 77 games so far this season.