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Ovechkin hoping to stay with Capitals past end of contract

Forward's 13-year deal runs through 2020-21 season

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Alex Ovechkin said he hopes to remain with the Washington Capitals beyond the end of his contract, which ends after the 2020-21 season.

"I can't talk about re-signing a new deal right now," Ovechkin said Thursday. "I have to wait one more year, I think. Of course I would love to stay in Washington, but how I said before, we'll see what's going to happen. Obviously, I don't want to play on a different team than Washington."

Ovechkin, who turns 34 on Sept. 17, will be eligible to sign an extension with the Capitals on July 1, 2020. The Washington left wing has been evasive this offseason when talking about his future beyond the end of the 13-year contract he signed Jan. 10, 2008, saying repeatedly that he would wait until after it expires before deciding anything.

"We'll see what's going to happen in two years," Ovechkin said at the NHL Player Media Tour in Chicago last week. "We'll see where we're at, and of course I want to play until I can't play, you know? I don't want to be a guy who go out there and just, like, you know, play [like a] joke. If I'm going to be at the same level, yeah [I'll play]."

Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said he'd love for Ovechkin to continue playing for the Capitals beyond his current contract but understands the captain's wait-and-see approach as he begins his 15th NHL season.

"It makes sense to me that he makes his decision that way," MacLellan said. "I think health and him enjoying the game and how successful he is over the next two years are going to go into his decision. I respect that, and hopefully he continues to play here."

The No. 1 pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, Ovechkin is 13th in NHL history with 658 goals in 1,084 games. With 42 goals this season, he'd become the eighth player to reach 700.

Last season, Ovechkin led the NHL in goals for a League-record eighth time by scoring 51. It was his eighth 50-goal season, moving him within one of Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most in NHL history.

Longtime teammate Nicklas Backstrom said he thinks Ovechkin will play three more seasons after his contract expires, possibly giving him enough time to close in on Gretzky's NHL record of 894 goals.

"I think so," Backstrom said. "I think he might catch [Gretzky]. It's possible. The way he's shooting the puck and the way he scores, that's incredible. We just have to feed him."

Ovechkin has downplayed his chances of breaking Gretzky's record but has said he'd like to try.

"Well, there's always a chance, but again, I have to play the same way, I have to do the same thing," he said last week. "I have to use my chances and we'll see."

Backstrom believes that Gretzky's record will become more of a focus for Ovechkin when he gets closer to it.

"I don't think he's thinking about it a lot," Backstrom said. "He's just doing his thing. But when he's going to get a little closer, he wants to chase it, I think, which I think is a good thing."

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