It was never really in doubt, but Alex Ovechkin is returning to the Washington Capitals. The legendary forward announced his own extension, which will total $47.5MM over five years ($9.5MM AAV). Ovechkin was a pending unrestricted free agent but has spent his entire career in Washington and was not expected to sign anywhere else.
Capitals CEO Ted Leonsis released a statement:
Alex is a world-class athlete who will forever be regarded not only for leading the team to achieve our ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup, but also for inspiring the next generation of fans and youth players. The impact Alex has had on hockey in D.C. extends well beyond Capital One Arena. His performance on the ice has undoubtedly sparked countless new fans of the game and inspired more youth players to lace up skates of their own. Off the ice, Alex’s impact is equally unmatched. Not only is he committed to the franchise, but also to the community, and we look forward to seeing him in the Capitals uniform for years to come.
Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reports the full structure of the deal:
- 2021-22: $1.0MM salary + $4.0MM signing bonus
- 2022-23: $1.0MM salary + $9.0MM signing bonus
- 2023-24: $1.0MM salary + $11.5MM signing bonus
- 2024-25: $5.0MM salary + $6.0MM signing bonus
- 2025-26: $5.0MM salary + $4.0MM signing bonus
CapFriendly adds that the contract contains a full no-move clause and a 10-team no-trade clause in each season.
Getting a good chunk of salary on the last two years would have been important to the Capitals, as an early retirement would not remove the cap hit from the books, given the age at which Ovechkin is signing. There’s obviously now a financial incentive for him to play out the full deal, though his loyalty to the Capitals organization has never been in doubt.
Now 35, Ovechkin will almost continue to carry the exact same cap hit he has for the past 13 years. In 2008 he signed a 13-year, $124MM contract with the Capitals, which carried a cap hit of $9, 538,462. That was nearly 19% of the salary cap at that point, but it was certainly worth it for a player that will go down as arguably the greatest goal-scorer of all time. In fact, Ovechkin needs to average just 33 goals a season over this five-year deal to pass Wayne Gretzky’s record 894 goals.
It’s hard to know if that’s a possibility for a player at his age, but it’s not like Ovechkin has really slowed down in recent years. He has won the Rocket Richard trophy as the league’s top goal-scorer seven out of the past nine seasons and even in a year interrupted by COVID, he had 24 goals in 45 games during 2020-21. Nearly a point-per-game player still, his place at the top of the Capitals lineup or on the left side of the first powerplay unit will never be in doubt, even as he moves into his late-thirties.
It’s a race for the record now, but Ovechkin and the Capitals also have their sights set on a second championship. The team finally lifted the Stanley Cup in 2018, 14 years into his marvelous career. With a core locked up for the next several years—Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlsson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie are all signed through at least 2024-25—they’ll keep trying to climb that mountain again as their captain nears the end of his career.