In the middle of the 2007-08 season the Washington Capitals signed Alex Ovechkin to a massive 13-year, $124 million contract extension. It does not seem like it was that long ago.
Because time is a runaway freight train that slows down for no one, we have reached the point where Ovechkin is set to enter the final year of that contract and is now in a position where he can sign an extension. Don’t you feel old now knowing how fast those past 13 years have gone by?
It is pretty much a given that he will do that at some point in the not-too-distant future. There is no way the Capitals, who have built an entire organization around him, would ever want him wearing another NHL team’s uniform. Ovechkin also seems to have no desire to have that happen, and said as much in a recent interview with Russian Television International.
“It’s not a question of money,” said Ovechkin, via NHL.com. “It’s a matter of principle: I played for only two teams, Dynamo [Moscow] and Washington.”
The question now becomes what that next contract in Washington might look like.
His current contract is one of the best ever
Before we get into the next contract, we should acknowledge something regarding his current deal. It turned out to be one of the best contracts of the salary cap era.
His deal was signed during that wild west era of contracts when teams were giving out mega long-term contracts (10 years, 11 years, 12 years, etc.). In some situations it was a salary cap thing to help lower the cap hit. In this case, though, it was simply a long-term investment to keep the franchise player as long as possible.
It could not have possibly worked out any better.
For nearly a decade-and-a-half the Capitals had the greatest goal-scorer of all time signed to a contract that was probably far below his actual market value. They never had to worry about a negotiation. The salary cap hit was fair. And they got through the entirety of the contract without it ever becoming an albatross, something they had to bury, or something they had to jettison along with other assets. That is almost unheard of when it comes to the 10-plus year contracts we saw during that era.
What is next?
GM Brian MacLellan said the team had initial conversations with Ovechkin shortly after their team elimination from the playoffs, but that those talks would be tabled until training camp. A report out of Russia later claimed that talks centered around a three-to-five year deal with a salary cap hit in the $9.5 million to $10 million range.
That would represent a slight raise on a per year basis.
All of that seems fair.
There are a few variables to consider.
The first is that in his interview with Russian Television International he said that while he wants to finish his NHL career with the Capitals, he wants to play his last match with Dynamo Moscow. Now, that could mean a lot of things. Does he want to play a full season there? Or two seasons? Or just one game as a final victory lap on his career? Impossible to say.
There is also the fact that as long as Wayne Gretzky’s goal record is in sight (and it very much is) you have to assume he will continue to chase that.
If he averaged 45 goals per year, that would take 4.1 years (or a five-year contract) to hit that mark.
It might be asking a lot to expect him to score 45 goals every year through age 39 or 40, but again, that is just the *average* number he would need. A declining trend of something like 50, 45, 40, 35, and 25 would get him there and come in around that 40-45 goal average he would need.
This is nothing more than a guess piecing together the random bits of information we know. But something along the lines of a five-year, $50 million contract ($10 million per year) seems like it should be doable. Even though we are currently looking at a flat salary cap for the foreseeable future, that sort of contract would not dramatically alter the team’s cap structure. It would also all but guarantee he finishes his career in Washington. The age is a concern, but it seems reasonable to think that even if he declines he should still remain a fierce goal scorer for most of that contract.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.