It’s been quite the run for Alex Ovechkin in Washington D.C. After being taken first overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Ovechkin would change the NHL with his explosiveness, size and raw ability to put the puck in the back of the net. Over 12 seasons in Washington, Ovechkin has tallied 558 goals and 1,035 points in 921 games with the Capitals, and is easily the best player in the franchise’s 43 year run. However, there’s something missing in Ovechkin’s long list of accomplishments and awards during his time in the NHL, a Stanley Cup ring. And if there’s no ring in his trophy case by the end of the 2017-18 season, Ovechkin is likely headed elsewhere.
It’s not Ovechkin’s fault, the Capitals have had some of the best teams in recent memory over the past decade, all with the 31 year old Russian at the helm of the team. However, a failure to lead his team deep into the playoffs has left a hole in his legacy, and to this point, it hasn’t been fixed. After taking home the President’s Trophy as the top regular season team for the second consecutive season, the Caps were once again bested by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. The two teams have always been compared to one another since the Capitals took Ovechkin in 2004 and the Penguins drafted Crosby in 2005, and to this point, the Penguins have owned the Capitals over the last 12 years. While the Capitals are still a Stanley Cup contender heading into 2017-18, the room for error has vanished. Immediate results are expected from the Capitals this season, and after the blame has fallen on coaches and the front office in the past, it will be coming for the players if it doesn’t work out this season.
With Ovechkin signed through the 2020-21 season, the Capitals will have a bit of a hard time unloading the Russian superstar given his cap hit is $9.5 million per season. However, If they’re willing to either take on a bad contract for a year or two or find a trade partner who isn’t tight to the cap, a deal is still reachable. Teams like the Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets all have enough cap room at the moment to make a deal seamlessly. Plus, Ovechkin is nearing the end of his prime years, and only has 3-4 seasons left of 40-50 goal seasons in him. Throw in the fact that Ovechkin could bolt back to Russia to play in the KHL at any time, and it seems like a given that the Capitals should move Ovechkin if a Stanley Cup isn’t in the picture.
The window is slowly closing for the Washington Capitals, and if they want a decent return for Ovechkin, the deal will have to be before Ovechkin turns 33. After that, with only one year left on his contract, and an aging star, the Capitals won’t be able to re-tool let alone re-build with the pieces they get in return.
To be honest, I can’t see Ovechkin in another NHL uniform, and he could just leave for Russia if the Capitals don’t win a cup in the next year or two, but my gut says his rights will at least be moved for 2018-19, even if he leaves for his home country in the offseason. With the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang nearing, and the NHL currently absent from the event, with Ovechkin’s intentions of playing in the games regardless, it could just throw another wrench into this whole argument.
Either way, whether it’s another NHL team or the KHL, I believe Alex Ovechkin’s time in Washington is nearly finished.