Alex Ovechkin has the skill to beat Wayne Gretzky's goal record of 894, but does he have the time? Ovechkin is already one of the greatest to ever play the game, but he is 34 years old and certainly closer to the end of his career than he is to the beginning. Now with 700 goals in the rearview mirror and only one year left on his current contract, it is fair to wonder just how much longer Ovechkin will play.
Ovechkin was asked that question by NBC Sports' Kathryn Tappen in a special edition of Hockey at Home that featured a joint interview with Ovechkin and Gretzky. Ovechkin was coy with his response.
"We'll see," Ovechkin said. "I have one more year after this season and we'll see."
Obviously there is no question that the Capitals will look to re-sign the greatest player in franchise history, but he will be 36 when he plays his first game under his next contract.
Given the remarkable durability Ovechkin has shown throughout his career and the fact that he remains one of the most dangerous goal-scorers in the league at an age in which most players have begun to sharply decline, Ovechkin very likely could play at a high level for several more years. When he no longer can play at that level, however, he does not see himself being someone who sticks around for several more years as a depth player.
"I'm healthy, thanks God, and I still love this game," Ovechkin said. "As soon as I'm not going to love this game, I'm not going to cheat on it because I respect it a lot and I don't want to put my name on the caliber players who just play out there and take somebody's spots. I don't want to do that."
There have been numerous examples of elite players continuing to play well into their late 30s and even early 40s as depth players. That is not the way Ovechkin wants to see his career end.
Given what Ovechkin has meant for the Capitals franchise and the city of Washington, he has earned the right to dictate the way his career will end there and it's not going to be as a bottom-six player earning only a handful of points and taking a roster spot away from a younger player ready to break into the NHL.
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