ARLINGTON, Va. -- While the immediate focus of the Capitals in terms of contracts may be Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby, the future of Alex Ovechkin also looms large for the franchise with his contract set to expire in 2021.
Ovechkin has made a number of cryptic comments throughout the summer about what he may or may not do once his contract runs out even hinting in August that he could retire. On Thursday, however, there were no secret messages and no need to read between the lines.
Ovechkin wants to stay in Washington, period.
“Of course I would love to stay in Washington, but I would say before, we’ll see what’s going to happen,” Ovechkin said. “I said I don’t want to play for a different team than Washington.”
A cynical take of this would be to say Ovechkin may just be referring to NHL teams and not the KHL. Many have wondered if he would one day choose to leave the NHL to return to his native Russia and play out the rest of his career there. As long as he continues to be one of the top players in the world, however, it seems highly unlikely that the ultra-competitive Ovechkin would leave the best league in the world to go back to the KHL.
If Thursday’s media day was any indication, it certainly sounds as if Ovechkin was leaning towards signing another contract to stay in Washington.
“I can’t talk about signing a new deal right now,” he said. “I have to wait one more year.”
As his deal does not expire until 2021, Ovechkin is not eligible to sign an extension with the Caps until July 2020. This certainly makes it sound as if the question is not if he will re-sign, but when.
Given how proud Ovechkin is of his heritage, an eventual return to the KHL cannot be ruled out completely. But he could go back to Russia and be a top player there even after his play in the NHL begins to decline. Ovechkin also sits just 236 goals behind Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 and, while he has largely avoided talking about Gretzky’s record, he did seem to open up to the possibility during the NHL’s media day in early September.
The bottom line is that Caps fans need not worry about whether they will have only two more years of Ovechkin. It sounds as if he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
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