Alex Ovechkin comes with a $9,538,462 annual cap hit. That’s the thought that echoes through my head when I look at his ice time over the first period: a mere 3:33 minutes.
That’s less than all but four Capitals’ players.
We’ve spent a fair amount of time talking about the Capitals defense and goaltending, more specifically, how they need Braden Holtby to be a hero if they are to defeat the New York Rangers. That’s because the players who are paid to be the heroes in Washington have been overshadowed in their playoff run. Now, the face of the franchise is barely even playing.
Now, you could argue that a single period is a small sample size and while that does have some merit, it’s still true that the Capitals declined to use him even under what appeared to be favorable circumstances. Additionally, this is a big deal primarily because it is the latest link in a chain of troubling events surrounding Ovechkin.
To Capitals coach Dale Hunter’s credit, his system has worked and his strategies have paid off. He got this team to the playoffs – albeit barely – and past the Boston Bruins in the first round. Washington fell short in Game 1 of their second round series against the New York Rangers, but they’ve come out to a 2-1 lead in Game 2 despite Ovechkin’s minimal playing time.
At the end of the day, Hunter’s job is to win games and so far he’s done that, but Ovechkin can’t be a role player, a situational guy, or a bottom-six forward. His $9,538,462 annual cap hit will not allow for that to happen.
Be it in a period, a day, a week, or a year, something’s got to give. Ovechkin has to start playing like Ovechkin – in addition to simply playing – or the dream that Washington had when they first selected him will turn into a nightmare.