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Ovechkin, Capitals seek new contract, looking for 'sweet spot'

Washington captain can become free agent after this season

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals have yet to find the "sweet spot" for his next contract, general manager Brian MacLellan said Friday.

Ovechkin, in the final season of a 13-year, $124 million contract (average annual value $9.538 million) he signed Jan. 10, 2008, can become an unrestricted free agent after this season. As he did in 2008, the 35-year-old forward is negotiating his contract without an agent.

"I don't really have an update," MacLellan said. "It's the same as it's been all year. We want him to finish his career here, and I think he wants to finish his career here, and at some point we'll get it done."

Ovechkin has repeatedly expressed his desire to remain with Washington and began discussions with MacLellan about a new contract at the start of this season. But when asked Sunday how negotiations were progressing, the Capitals captain said, "Same. Nothing."

The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which likely will cause the NHL salary cap to remain at $81.5 million for a third straight season in 2021-22, is a potential obstacle. The Capitals remain tight against the salary cap and figuring out how much money to commit to Ovechkin and the length of his contract is taking some time.

"We've just got to find a sweet spot that we agree on," MacLellan said.

Selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, Ovechkin has played all of his 16 NHL seasons with the Capitals and helped them win their first Stanley Cup championship in 2018. 

With 715 goals in 1,174 regular-season games, he trails Phil Esposito by two for sixth in NHL history heading into the game at the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, NBCSP, NBCSWA, NHL.TV).

Ovechkin is three points from becoming the 35th player in NHL history to reach 1,300. The only active player with more is Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joe Thornton (1,520).

Despite dealing with some bumps and bruises and missing four games in NHL COVID-19 protocol, Ovechkin has scored 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) in 22 games this season. But MacLellan believes he can play better now that he's completely healthy.

Ovechkin scored two goals and had 14 shots on goal in his past three games.

"I think there's another gear," MacLellan said. "I think he's worked through some things physically, not quite injuries. Got through the COVID, got through some stuff physically. 

"I think the last couple of games, he's been more on target. I think he'll have a really good second half here. I think we're getting through the period of maybe not practicing, not being totally there after the COVID, after some injuries. I think he'll have a good second half."

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