- The Washington Times
Monday, January 4, 2021

The Washington Capitals have preached patience all along. General manager Brian MacLellan said last month talks over a contract extension with Alex Ovechkin would wait until the new year and could occur during training camp.

Both the new year and training camp have arrived, with Ovechkin taking the ice Monday to prepare for the team’s Jan. 14 season opener. Even now, though, the captain said he’s in no rush for talks to take place.

“It’s our first day, so I didn’t see [MacLellan], obviously,” Ovechkin said. “But we have plenty of time. … I don’t think we are in a rush. We understand everything that’s happening right now, so whatever is done is done. If it’s not done, we’re going to talk and we’ll see.”

Ovechkin signed a 13-year, $124 million contract extension during the 2007-08 season. Now, at 35, that deal is ending following the upcoming 56-game campaign. Ovechkin has been the lifeblood of the organization since he joined, leading the league in scoring nine times.

He’s coming off a 48-goal season, matching Boston’s David Pastrnak for the most in the NHL. He still has more to give, and he told Russian Television International in November that he plans to stay in Washington long-term before finishing his career with Dynamo Moscow, his former team in Russia.

“It’s not a question of money,” Ovechkin said. “It’s a matter of principle: I played for only two teams — Dynamo and Washington. … It is clear, in two, three, four years, maybe five, I will end my career in Washington.”

As he enters his 16th NHL season, though, Ovechkin preached more patience Monday. While the deal might not happen right away, he’d be fine with discussions extending into the season.

“I think for me, most important thing is just to play the game right now,” Ovechkin said. “Of course, it’s one year. I’ve been in this position 13 years ago, right, when I last signed a deal and worried about this kind of stuff.

“Right now, I’m 35. I understand everything and I’m kind of an experienced guy. Of course, you’re going to think about it when it’s getting closer, but right now we’re in training camp. The most important thing right now is to go back on the ice, get your body moving, feel the game, and after that, we will talk.”

The Capitals took a calculated risk 13 years ago when they signed a 22-year-old Ovechkin to a lengthy extension, but the move proved to be a masterstroke.

Then a rebuilding franchise, Ovechkin helped turn around the organization. He’s won three Hart Memorial trophies and led Washington to its first Stanley Cup championship in 2018.

“Once we get to camp, hopefully we get time or space to be together and we will go from there,” MacLellan said in December. “We want Alex coming back and we said all along we would talk at the beginning of the year and hopefully we get a chance to do that during camp.”

Ovechkin will negotiate a new deal without an agent. If he needs help, he can turn to teammate Nicklas Backstrom, who negotiated his five-year, $46 million extension by himself last season.

“I told him last year I think, I’ll take half a percent if he wants me to negotiate. But he said, ‘No, I’ll do it myself,’” Backstrom said. “He’s fine. He’s going to do a good job, I think.”

• Andy Kostka can be reached at akostka@washingtontimes.com.

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