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Alex Ovechkin 'not even thinking' about an extension as Capitals training camp begins

Alex Ovechkin 'not even thinking' about an extension as Capitals training camp begins

In a normal year, July 1 is the start of the NHL's league year. That is when free agency begins because it is when all expiring contracts have officially expired. It is also the day when players with one year remaining on their contracts can sign an extension.

As we all know, 2020 is not a normal year. Alex Ovechkin is on the final year of his contract, but with the 2019-20 season on pause, July 1 came and went with no fanfare and no talk about an extension for the best player in franchise history. Like the season itself, all such business was paused. After a new CBA was ratified by the league and the players, however, July 13 became the new day when players could sign extensions. That possibility seems to be nowhere on the mind of Ovechkin who has his sights set clearly on a second Stanely Cup.

Training camps began across the league on Monday as the NHL transitioned to Phase 3 of its return to play plan. After his first practice back, Ovechkin spoke with the media via Zoom and dismissed a question about a contract extension.

"Not even talking, not even thinking about it because right now we have lots of stuff to do," he said.

A flat salary cap for at least next year and likely the next two or three seasons makes it difficult to offer a long-term, big-money contract. For a player like Ovechkin, an exception will almost certainly be made, but that does not mean the process has not suddenly become much more complicated. Trying to fit a cap hit of somewhere around $9 or 10 million in addition to the several contracts already on the books is a daunting task for a veteran-heavy team. A flat cap means that long-term deals for older players won't take up a smaller percentage of the cap with every passing year.

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Considering this, it's not surprising that this is an issue Ovechkin does not want to think about right now. While there was no guarantee Ovechkin would have re-signed on July 1 in a normal year, it seems unlikely the month of July would have passed by without the captain and future Hall-of-Famer putting pen to paper on a new contract. But that process is now much more complicated and Ovechkin just wants to focus on the task of winning a Cup.

"For us, for every team, every player wants to play for a Cup, right?" Ovechkin said. "We have that opportunity right now to go back and hope we going to win. Obviously, if you look at our roster, we have very good group of guys, experienced guys and talented guys. I'm looking forward to it."

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The season pause gave Braden Holtby a chance to 'fix a few things' in his game

The season pause gave Braden Holtby a chance to 'fix a few things' in his game

No team can make it far in the playoffs without good goaltending. That's what made the news of Ilya Samsonov's injury so tough for the Capitals. Sure, they still have Braden Holtby, but let's face it, it's been a bad season. Does he even still have it in him to lead the team in the postseason? After three round-robin games, the answer is an emphatic yes.

In a round-robin in which there were seemingly few positives for Washington, Holtby was one of them. He was the team's best player in the round-robin and he capped it off with 30 saves on 31 shots against the Boston Bruins on Sunday, the team's lone win.

Holtby looks like a completely different goalie than the one who managed just a .897 save percentage and 3.11 GAA in 48 regular-season games and that's because he is. The pause to the NHL season allowed Holtby time off to reset his game that he would not have in a normal season and he took advantage.

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"Put a lot of work in the last couple months and had to fix a few things and work on a few things over the break to strengthen up," Holtby said, "And every game we played here you get a little more stamina and more and more comfortable."

It is pretty remarkable that Holtby was able to improve his game as much as he seems to have done considering that for much of that time, he could not even get on the ice. Yet, as the team prepares for the playoffs, goaltending no longer seems to be an issue. The loss of Samsonov means that the team is in trouble should Holtby struggle or get injured, but in terms of the starting netminder, Holtby is once again the guy. While that may have made fans nervous in January, fans can now be comfortable with that considering Holtby is playing his best hockey of the season.

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Caps and Islanders coaches downplay the personal matchup in Stanley Cup playoff series: 'It's not Barry Trotz vs. Todd Reirden'

Caps and Islanders coaches downplay the personal matchup in Stanley Cup playoff series: 'It's not Barry Trotz vs. Todd Reirden'

As the Capitals and New York Islanders prepare to square off in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, all eyes will be on one matchup. It's not about the two goalies or how one defensive pairing matchups up against an offensive line, this matchup is off the ice. The storyline of this series is the men behind the bench, Todd Reirden and his predecessor, Barry Trotz.

Trotz was the head coach in Washington from 2014 to 2018 and led the Caps to the Stanley Cup in 2018. Reirden was on Trotz's staff as an associate coach in charge of the defense. Following the 2018 season, Trotz resigned and was hired as the head coach in New York, taking with him assistant coach Lane Lambert and goalie coach Mitch Korn. Reirden was hired as head coach of the Caps in the wake of Trotz's departure.

"It'll be a great challenge because I know the people over there," Trotz said of the series.

"Obviously we were able to accomplish something amazing together and that's something that you'll never forget as a staff," Reirden said. "That's never going to go away. It's unique now being on opposite benches and it has been."

When a team plays against its former head coach, comparisons between the two coaches are unavoidable. But even if the fans and the media look at this series as a commentary on the two coaches, the two men in question certainly do not.

"It's not Barry Trotz vs. Todd Reirden or any of those type of things," Reirden said. "It's going to be a team effort."

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They also downplayed any sort of advantage knowing each other may give them in the series.

"You've spent some time with a lot of their players, there's a lot of new players," Trotz said. "It just gives me a little insight on some of their tendencies, that's all."

The core in Washington may be the same, but there are a number of new faces on the roster who came after Trotz. The top-six on offense is the same, but players like Carl Hagelin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Richard Panik, Garnet Hathaway and Nic Dowd all came after Trotz. Defensively, the team added Nick Jensen, Radko Gudas and Brenden Dillon.  Jonas Siegenthaler was in the organization, but did not make his NHL debut until the 2018-19 season.

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But even if they do not want to admit it, the familiarity between the coaches and players undeniably adds a different dynamic to the series.

The Caps know what kind of a coach Trotz is and how his teams like to play. Likewise, Trotz knows the level of talent on the roster in Washington so he knows the challenge that awaits the Islanders in the first round.

"They've got a lot of star power and they've won a championship," Trotz said. "They're well-equipped in a lot of areas, so the biggest challenge is to play them even and play them hard and they'll do the same because I know a lot about that group."

Trotz also added, "I think it will be a hell of a series."

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