By Ian Oland
Nicklas Backstrom is one of the greatest players in Washington Capitals history. At season’s end, he will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time. It’s a monumental storyline heading into the 2019-20 season and Backstrom staying or leaving will have a huge impact on if the Capitals remain Stanley Cup contenders or not. But, as always, Nicky is being overshadowed by Alex Ovechkin.
Ovechkin will be a free agent next year after the 2020-21 season ends, and Thursday during Capitals Media Day, Backstrom was asked how much longer his close friend might play hockey.
Backstrom was asked how long he thought Ovechkin would play. He thought about it and said 3 more years after his current contract. That was …oddly specific
— JJ Regan (@JJReganNBCS) September 12, 2019
🤔 Hmm. That is oddly specific. It’s almost as if they’ve talked about it.
The reason why Ovechkin’s contract is being focused on now — beyond the fact that he’s one of the greatest players of all time — is because over the summer, Ovechkin broached retirement as an option when his current contract ends. “I have two more years to play, under my contract,” Ovechkin said according to TASS. “Let us wait and see whether I will continue my career as everything depends on the health.”
On NHL Media Day, Ovechkin clarified that “I want to play until I can’t play,” but added this caveat: “I don’t want to be a guy who go out there and just, like, you know, play [like a] joke. If I’m going to be at the same level, yeah [I’ll play].”
Backstrom was also asked if Ovechkin’s next contract would have anything to do with him catching Wayne Gretzky’s goal record. Backstrom replied affirmatively believing Ovi would become the all-time goals king.
Backstrom said he expects Ovechkin to play three more years after his contract is up, which will be in two years. Would that be tied to a certain goals record? “Yeah, I think he’s going to catch him.”
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) September 12, 2019
Ovechkin sits 236 goals behind Gretzky. If Ovi plays five more seasons in the NHL, he would have to average 47.2 goals the next five years to catch The Great One. The number bumps down into the 30’s if he plays six or seven more seasons, making the title much more attainable.
The race to Wayne Gretzky's goal record is on!
Here are the season averages The Great 8 will have to put up over the coming years to catch the Great One.
More here: https://t.co/r8rDeS9gcP pic.twitter.com/CpE1o1cf6Q
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) September 11, 2019
What ends up happening is anyone’s best guess. Beyond shooting less per game, Ovechkin’s numbers have not regressed as he’s gotten older, scoring 49 goals or more in five of his last six seasons.
And now, going into his age 34 season, Ovechkin is the oldest player on the Capitals. “I’m still young,” he said, Thursday.
Alex Ovechkin on being the oldest player on the #Capitals for the first time: I’m still young. I still want to play my game. @WTOP. pic.twitter.com/BEeTe8KNNM
— jonwarner (@jonwarnerWTOP) September 12, 2019
He certainly has played like it.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong
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