Alex Ovechkin’s 13-year, $124 million contract will end after the 2020-21 season. A new deal for Ovechkin is a high priority for a Capitals franchise looking to make another Stanley Cup run with its captain before he retires.
Ovechkin, 34, has been eligible to sign a contract extension since July 13, 2020 — three days after the ratification of the NHL’s new CBA — but for Caps fans hoping a new deal will be wrapped up quickly, they may be feeling Ovi Anxiety for a while.
On Sunday, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan revealed that the team has talked about a possible contract extension with Ovechkin “over the last couple days,” but had no news on a deal. Both sides agreed to sideline talks for a few months as the Capitals find a new veteran head coach and try to revamp their roster over the offseason.
“We’re going to talk when we come back to training camp, continue our conversations,” MacLellan said.
Previously, during Phase 3 Training Camp, Ovechkin revealed he wouldn’t discuss a new deal at least until the playoffs ended. “No. Like not even talking,” Ovechkin said of negotiations. “Not even thinking about it because right now we have lots of things to do.”
Ovechkin, who was recently named EA Sports’ cover athlete for NHL 21, is closing in on Wayne Gretzky’s NHL goals record (trails by 188) and playing some of the best hockey of his career despite being in his mid-30s when top players usually are regressing. Ovechkin tied David Pastrnak for the league-lead in goals (48) this season and has won the Rocket Richard Trophy in seven of his last eight seasons. The Capitals could likely afford to keep Ovechkin near his current cap hit of $9.54 million, but the NHL’s flat salary cap maximum, a raise due to Jakub Vrana in 2021, and other roster juggling may complicate a new agreement with The Great 8.
Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has already gone on the record that he wants Ovi to end his career in Washington. Last summer, Ovechkin suggested that he had little interest in leaving if he chooses to continue playing past age 35.
“I’ve been playing only for two teams in my life: Dynamo Moscow and the Caps. I don’t like too much to change teams,” Ovechkin said.
The other big factor in Ovechkin returning was his longtime running mate, Nicklas Backstrom, re-signing, which the Swedish center did in January. Ovechkin asked Backstrom about his contract negotiations every day and hugged his longtime friend when he found out about the forward’s new five-year, $46 million deal.
During a podcast interview with Rob Carlin, Ovechkin teased that he’d retire at the same time as Backstrom, joking that he’d sign a new five-year extension if Backstrom inked a six-year deal the season prior.
It’s unclear how much longer Ovechkin will want to play in the NHL; He’s previously stated he doesn’t want to continue lacing up his skates if he can’t play at a top-level. But with another Stanley Cup run possible and the goals record within grasp (regardless of what he says), a new deal could determine if the latter remains possible.
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk/RMNB
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