As part of the new CBA agreement, teams don’t have to wait until the start of the 2020-21 league year (slated for some time in November) to begin working on contract extensions for 2021 free agents. While they’re eligible to do so, the Capitals have decided that they will not be doing so with winger Alex Ovechkin, Washington GM Brian MacLellan told reporters, including NHL.com’s Tracey Myers.
The 34-year-old will be entering the final season of his 13-year, $124MM contract next season. At the time, the deal seemed rather largesse at the time as it came close to the maximum 20% of the cap which is as high as a deal can go. However, with the Upper Limit of the cap increasing substantially since then (from $56.7MM in 2008 when the pact was signed to $81.5MM this season), the contract has even looked like a bargain at times.
There’s no denying that Ovechkin is an elite goal scorer and when all is said and done, the future first-ballot Hall of Famer might actually hold the NHL record. He sits eighth all-time with 706 tallies and while he’s still 190 shy of Wayne Gretzky’s record, he still has several years left in him. It’s not entirely crazy to think that the length of his next contract will ultimately determine whether or not he gets that top spot.
Ovechkin has led the league in goals for three straight years, scoring at least 48 in each of them. While it’s fair to say that he will slow down eventually, it would seem as if he has at least a few years left as a top scorer in the game. Undeniably, there will be plenty of interest in him if he was to make it to the open market in 2021.
Having said that, given his commitment to the Capitals organization and the mutual admiration, it seems likely that they’ll eventually be able to work out a new contract before he gets to free agency. Accordingly, the decision to wait until after the postseason seems like a wise one.
The big question then becomes how long the deal will be as at this point, it’s reasonable to think that Ovechkin’s cap hit on his next contract will be around the current $9.5MM AAV. It will be a 35-plus deal which makes it less likely that a cheap year or two is tacked on to try to artificially lower the cap hit. There is a new provision in the CBA that takes away the 35-plus risk (Section 64 of the Memorandum of Understanding) but that only applies if “(1) total compensation (Player Salary and Bonuses) that is either the same as or increases from one League Year to the immediately subsequent League Year, and (2) a Signing Bonus, if any, that is payable in the first year of the SPC only.” In other words, the risks only go away with a uniform salary with minimal signing bonuses which takes away some of the incentives to front-loading the contract.
That will be one of the factors that MacLellan and Ovechkin’s camp consider over the coming months. It will be a little while longer before it gets done but right now, they’ll solely focus on Washington’s upcoming playoff run which will unofficially get underway on Monday with the first of three round robin games to determine postseason seeding.