Alex Ovechkin said he is “confident” he will reach a new contract with the Washington Capitals soon.
The Capitals’ captain, 35, will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, as his 13-year, $124 million contract is set to expire. For that contract, which was the NHL’s first nine-figure deal, Ovechkin’s mother, Tatyana, and father, Mikhail, were present for the final round of talks.
Ovechkin is once again negotiating a new contract himself, following longtime teammate Nicklas Backstrom, who inked a new-five year deal in 2020 without using an agent. Ovechkin said he has been meeting with owner Ted Leonsis and GM Brian MacLellan, and lines of communication are open.
“I’m confident; we still have time,” Ovechkin said in his year-end media availability on Tuesday. “Obviously, I want to finish my career here. I’m pretty sure we will do something soon.”
Since Washington won its first Stanley Cup in 2018, the Capitals have been bounced from the playoffs in the first round for three consecutive years. The Bruins eliminated the Caps in five games by a 3-1 score on Sunday. That followed a condensed 56-game regular season in which Ovechkin did not hit 30 goals for the first time in his 16-year career.
Ovechkin called it a “hard year.” The winger was forced to sit four games in January as he and three teammates were found to have violated the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols. The Capitals were fined $100,000 for the incident. Ovechkin also said he was dealing with “lots of mini-injuries and obviously a big injury before the playoffs.”
Ovechkin clarified that his most recent ailment was a leg injury. Although the injury will not require surgery, it prevented him from joining Team Russia at the ongoing IIHF World Championships in Latvia.
Sources said the Caps are considering multiple options for Ovechkin’s new contract, including a one-year deal or a four-year deal that would align with Backstrom’s deal. A source said that before the pandemic, Ovechkin’s ask was for around $12.5 million annually, though that number may change because of the salary cap remaining flat. Connor McDavid is the NHL’s highest-paid player, making $12.5 million annually.
Ovechkin has also planted roots in the D.C. community. Earlier this month, he and his wife, Nastya, became investors in the NWSL’s Washington Spirit.
“It was also important for me to support the D.C. community,” Ovechkin told ESPN. “I support everybody in this town. Me and my wife love to go watch a soccer game, watch football and baseball. We all win. If I have this opportunity, I think it’s very important for me to do it, because it also shows we care.”
Leonsis has been adamant about re-signing Ovechkin, telling The Athletic last month: “Alex knows that if he plays five more years, 10 more years, whatever it is, we’ve got his back. Our commitment to him is to continue to have great teams. We’ll spend to the cap; we’ll try to win championships. And that’s what he’s focused on, because that will be his legacy.”
On Tuesday, Capitals center Lars Eller said that Ovechkin’s looming free-agent status was not a distraction for the team this season.
“Everybody would be very surprised if Ovi wasn’t back,” Eller said. “You don’t take it for granted. You would just be surprised if he wasn’t back.”
With 730 career goals, Ovechkin is just 164 shy of matching Wayne Gretzky’s record of 864. The chase has hit some road blocks — including two lockouts and a global pandemic — but Ovechkin isn’t letting up.
“You still have chances, man,” Ovechkin said. “You just have to go out there and do your thing. Maybe it happens, maybe not. One step at a time.”