What is Next for Alex Ovechkin?

The+Capitals%27+recent+struggles+both+financially+and+on+the+ice+have+raised+questions+about+whether+Ovechkin%27s+otherwise+terrific+career+with+them+will+continue.+%28Courtesy+of+Twitter%29

The Capitals’ recent struggles both financially and on the ice have raised questions about whether Ovechkin’s otherwise terrific career with them will continue. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Chris Hennessy, Staff Writer

With the loss to the Boston Bruins in game five this past weekend, the Washington Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin were bounced in the first round for the third consecutive season. Since Barry Trotz’s departure after the Stanley Cup-winning 2018 season, Washington has won a total of five playoff games. They replaced the coach after last season, as Todd Reirden stepped aside in favor of Peter Laviolette. Now, through a season of turmoil, injuries, COVID-19 and suspensions, the Capitals sputtered to a disappointing end. 

With the season’s end came the end of their Captain’s contract. Alex Ovechkin signed a 13-year deal before the 2008 season at a $9.5 million cap hit. Before the 2012 lockout, the eight-year limit on contracts did not exist, and a team could sign their players to longer contracts. Jeff Carter and Shea Weber are currently expiring similar contracts and they have nowhere near Ovechkin’s production. The Montreal Canadiens will be paying off Weber’s contract for another five years, and there is a possibility that the Nashville Predators will have to pay some cap recapture penalties if Weber retires.

Ovechkin is in the rare air of players who are effective into their late thirties. With Wayne Gretzky’s 894 career goal record in sight, he will undoubtedly want to get paid handsomely for the rest of his career.  Ordinarily, this would be a no-brainer for the Caps to resign the greatest player in franchise history. However, the cap will not be increasing from the $81.5 million ceiling for the next few years. The Capitals have zero dollars in cap space, with 24-year-old goalie Ilya Samsonov also needing a contract this summer. This will provide an interesting question for Ovi. Will he take a discount, by maybe three or four million dollars to stay in Washington, or will he try and latch on with a contender to win another Cup? 

Washington is in salary cap jail, with 10 players over the age of thirty slotted to make over $2.5 million next season, not including Ovechkin. That being said, they are not in the position to begin a major rebuild after trading their first-round pick to Detroit at the deadline for Anthony Mantha. All of this puts them in a compromising position this summer. 

Were he to leave, Ovechkin’s most fascinating landing spot is the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are cruising through the West right now as favorites to win the Stanley Cup. They have a lot of talented players returning, including Nathan MacKinnon, Samuel Girard and Jonathan Toews, but they have some cap space freeing up this summer. With Brandon Saad, Patrick Nemeth and Matt Calvert as free agents, that leaves $9.78 million in space. Add Gabriel Landeskog, Philipp Grubauer, Devan Dubnyk or Pierre-Éduouard Bellemare and they could get most of those guys back and add Ovechkin. That team would be borderline unbeatable, a ton of fun to watch and get Ovi significantly closer to 894 goals. 

All of that said, the Capitals feel like the most likely landing spot. The reason the Avalanche are unlikely is because of Cale Makar’s pending free agency. He is a restricted free agent at the end of this season and will demand quite the payday. However, it will be fun to speculate where Ovechkin might end up as we approach the free agency period.