The only piece seemingly missing from the Washington Nationals' proverbial puzzle was the corner piece or, more appropriately, the "Hot Corner Piece."
Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman agreed to a six-year, $100 million contract extension (with an option for a seventh year, meaning that Zimmerman could be in D.C. until 2020) Sunday. Zimmermann's contract is a notable one, according to ESPN:
Zimmerman's contract is the second-largest contract in franchise history, only bested by Jayson Werth's seven-year, $126 million contract signed last year.
Zimmerman is now only one of six players signed through 2019: Albert Pujols (Anaheim), Prince Fielder (Detroit), Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado), Ryan Braun (Milwaukee) and Matt Kemp (Los Angeles).
The annual average value of $16.7 million is the second-most of any third baseman in the league, behind the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez $27.5 million per season.
The Nationals believe that Zimmerman is worth every penny and rightfully so. He has averaged around 18 home runs and 71 RBI during his first six seasons. Zimmerman has been plagued by injuries, but there is a positive caveat to that. According to ESPN, Zimmerman's "Wins Above Replacement" -- or how many wins he would give the Nationals as opposed to a minor league or bench player -- is 11th-highest since his first full season in 2006 and third for third basemen behind Rodriguez and the New York Mets' David Wright.
In short, Zimmerman is important to the Nationals and will continue to be (hopefully) throughout the rest of the decade. I guess you could say that Zimmerman is the "Hot Cornerstone" (Okay, ESPN used that one, but it rounds things out well).
What To Watch For...
This one is easy. The NHL's trade deadline is at 3 p.m. EST, so the Washington Capitals have precious few hours remaining to make a deal that will bolster them for the upcoming playoff push. The Caps, like Zimmerman, had a good weekend in their own right, winning back-to-back games for the first time since January 11-15, but reinforcements could be on the way.
History shows, however, that the Caps will be busy Monday. Since 2007-08, there has been only one season -- 2008-09 -- where Washington did not make any trades. Last season, the Caps acquired Jason Arnott and Dennis Wideman.
Some things to look for: if forward Nicklas Backstrom, out with a concussion, is placed on long-term injured reserve, expect a big trade. If that happens, Backstrom's $6.7 million salary cap hit disappears, giving General Manager Geroge McPhee more room to work with.
When the Caps take to the ice at Verizon Center Tuesday against the New York Islanders (coincidentally, the Caps' first game after last season's trade deadline was also a home game against the Islanders), we could see an entirely different team.
Adam Vingan is co-founder and editor of Kings Of Leonsis, a Caps-centric blog, and is the Capitals Editor for SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_KOL and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.