Enjoy Alex Ovechkin while you still can, Washington Capitals fans.
Since being selected first overall in the 2004 NHL Draft, Ovechkin has never recorded fewer than 32 goals or 19 assists in a season and has led the league in scoring nine times over the last 15 seasons, most recently in 2019-20. His list of accolades is a mile long, and when Ovechkin eventually hangs up his skates, he’ll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, no doubt.
There’s no doubt about it, Ovechkin is the best player to ever wear a Washington Capitals jersey, and honestly, it’s not all that close.
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So, with the 2020-21 season not too far over the horizon – hockey gods willing – I implore you to please enjoy watching Ovechkin while you can because he’s got only so much time left to do his thing on the ice.
Now granted, is that a tad overly dramatic? Maybe so. With forwards continuing their NHL careers well into their 40s with a near-unprecedented frequency as of late due to advancements in condition and wellness programs, its entirely possible Ovechkin could have plenty of quality hockey in front of him, and even top Gretzky’s 15 All-Star game appearances before he turns the big 4-0.
But there’s also a very real possibility that Ovechkin’s on-ice wizardry could start to become a bit less spectacular and a tad more rare, and the once-dominant right-handed left-wing could fall into more of a complementary piece alongside the next generation of Capitals.
Jakub Vrana was drafted a full decade after Ovechkin and will remain an NHL fixture for the next decade-plus.
There’s also a very real possibility that Ovechkin may not finish out his career in a Capitals jersey altogether, instead chasing… something – another championship, more playing time, a more temperate climate – in another city and *gasp* maybe even a number other than eight.
Believe me; I don’t want to see that either, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
With only one year left on his 13-year, $124 million deal, the terms of Ovechkin’s next contract will be very telling as to where he sees himself at this point in his NHL career and how he’d like to play out the final act of it. If Ovechkin takes a long-term deal, something in the four-to-six year range, he’ll likely finish out his career in Washington, even if his role won’t be identical. But if Ovi instead takes a short-term, big-money deal, then things could get interesting.
Could Ovechkin actually hit the open market for the first time in his career? Or is there a world where he retires at 35 and leaves a ton of quality hockey on the table for the comforts of a post-hockey life?
Either way, the age of Ovechkin is rapidly coming to an end whether we’d like it or not.
In sports, like in life, nothing lasts forever. Eventually, every player will have to hang up their skates whether they like it or not, either from a lack of interest, diminished talents, or something else. Even Hall of Famers like Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, and Wayne Gretzky eventually have to leave the game behind and watch their success transform into legend. Fortunately, hockey fans still have a chance to witness the legend of Alex Ovechkin continue to grow before his day comes, and I implore you to enjoy it while you still can.