Ovechkin was speaking at a news conference hosted by TASS on Thursday. The agency quoted the Capitals captain saying "I have two more years to play, under my contract. Let us wait and see whether I will continue my career as everything depends on the health."
Before breaking out your No. 8 jersey to have a good cry, maybe stand down for a bit. Ovechkin, who turns 34 on Sept. 17, indeed has two years left on his 13-year, $124 million contract signed in 2008. He will be 35 when that deal expires and 36 if he decides to play that next season. Retirement is certainly an option at that point given all Ovechkin has accomplished during his career, but so is playing for another NHL team or returning to Russia to play in the KHL, if he really wants to.
But it’s important to put an inflammatory quote like that in context. I’ve covered Ovechkin for the better part of a decade. That very formal “Let us wait and see…” is likely because the quote is translated from the original Russian. In English, it is also a go-to Ovechkin phrase and always has been.
He’s uttered “let’s see what’s gonna happen,” in countless interviews to questions from “Will you play long enough to break Wayne Gretzky’s goals record” to “Is your shoulder healthy enough to let you play against Ottawa this weekend” to “Do you think the NHL will suspend you for that hit.”
It’s part of Ovechkin’s greatest hits when he really doesn’t want to answer your question or sees no point in answering a hypothetical and just wants the interview to move on. Put it on the shelf right next to the “Ok, guys?” when he’s done with a scrum and “How I say?” when he wants to buy a second to think about an answer or, more often, has said something repeatedly. There are others. You get the point.
Translated quotes are always a nuisance because nuance gets lost. In this case, I don’t doubt Ovechkin said some version of this. TASS said that he added: "I would not want to have my limbs shattered as I would better spend my time running around with children.”
Presumably that means his son, Sergey, and any future Ovechkin babies with wife Nastya. Given that Ovechkin has missed 30 games in his entire career – some of those while serving suspensions for bad hits or skipping the All-Star game this past season or visiting his ailing grandfather in 2008 – physical health isn’t at the forefront right now.
Maybe that changes in his upcoming age-34 and age-35 seasons. But for now at least he isn’t dealing with a chronic injury that we know about. I’d like to think we’d have heard if Ovechkin was dealing with shattered limbs – though the NHL would no doubt let the Capitals call that an upper-body injury.
Anyway. Ovechkin is a free agent after the 2020-21 season and if an extension with Washington doesn’t get done between now and then he’ll have plenty of options. Retirement is one of them. But given his current health and the money that will still be available to him in the NHL or KHL, it still seems the least likely path. Let’s see what will happen, indeed.
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