Aren’t hockey players supposed to be superstitious?
Not Alex Ovechkin, apparently. The Capitals sniper accepted a 13-year deal from Washington, signing the contract under a ladder while breaking a mirror on a black cat.
OK, maybe the part about the cat isn’t completely true, but the deal is definitely for 13 years. At least Rick DiPietro (15 years) and Mike Richards (12 years) had the good sense to work around their triskaidekaphobia.
Not Ovechkin; he signed whatever they put in front of him in the same manner he plays the game – at full speed and without looking back.
Of course, Ovechkin had 124 million reasons to put pen to paper. If you were offered more than $9.5 million per year, you’d quickly sign up for a Washington newspaper subscription through 2020-21, too.
So…good deal? Bad deal?
Somewhere in between, of course.
If there’s any player in the league who appears ready for a decade (plus three years) of superstardom, it’s Ovechkin. His raw talent, effervescent personality and passion for the game combine to form an eye-popping player who’s loaded with charisma and, well, Ovechkin just seems like he’s so much fun to be around.
Oh yeah, he’s had seasons of 52 and 46 goals and is on pace for 60 this year – and he doesn’t turn 23 until next September. His speed and mobility, his wicked shot and quick release, and his physicality and desire are in the proper proportions to portend a lengthy Hall of Fame career.
Sidney Crosby may be the face of the NHL, but Ovechkin is the league’s personality. On the ice, the young Cap has two attributes that are in short supply in the NHL: dazzling speed and pure scoring skill. And he’s only getting better; he’s barely 200 games into his NHL career.
Still…thirteen years? One hundred and twenty-four million dollars?
Why? Why did the Capitals sign him for so long?
First off, Ovechkin would’ve been eligible for restricted free agency on July 1, and, given Oilers GM Kevin Lowe’s dalliance into the RFA pool last summer (when he signed Dustin Penner away from the Ducks after the Sabres matched his offer sheet to Thomas Vanek), there was a fear – A Big Fear – that some wise-guy GM would swoop in and lure away Ovechkin with a gigantic offer sheet beyond the financial scope of even Caps owner Ted Leonsis.
It’s hard to imagine anybody conceiving a larger offer than the contract Ovechkin ultimately signed, but surely the “let’s lock him in” mindset played a part.
Meanwhile, signing Ovechkin for a few years – three or four, say – wouldn’t have solved much. Under the new CBA, he’s eligible for unrestricted free agency after his seventh pro season. So, a traditional three- or four-year deal would’ve meant the Caps risked losing their franchise face to unrestricted free agency – i.e., no compensatory first round picks courtesy of Ovechkin’s new team – at age 26.
That, obviously, is a completely unacceptable scenario.
It goes to figure Washington wanted a deal that was at least six or seven years in length, and – by waving one-eighth of a billion dollars in front of Ovechkin – the team was able to go the extra mile and convince the star to sign until he’s 35.
If Ovechkin averages 50 goals a season for the duration of the contract, he’ll have around 800 by the time the deal runs out. That’s about $150,000 per goal, a rate the Caps might think is a bargain.
Especially if Ovechkin has anywhere near the impact off the ice as he has on it.
Sam McCaig’s From The Point appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Have a point to make with Sam McCaig? You can reach him at email@example.com.
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