The Washington Capitals desperately want to win the Stanley Cup, and have made several recent changes in an attempt to reach their goal.
The team hired a new head coach and all new assistant coaches, acquired several new players through trades and free agency, and allowed certain players to leave the team and sign elsewhere.
But could trading Alexander Ovechkin be what it takes to reach hockey's Promised Land? And can the team wait a year or two before making the franchise-altering decision of trading their captain and best player?
Here are six reasons why now is the time for the Washington Capitals to trade Alexander Ovechkin.
But Ovechkin's contract is becoming a burden. Ovechkin will count $9.538 million against the salary cap during the 2012-13 season. His contract alone accounts for 16 percent of the Washington Capitals' total salary cap hit for the season.
And the annual value of his contract will actually increase before it expires. Starting in 2014-15, his annual salary increases to $10 million.
All this money tied up in one player prevents the Washington Capitals from pursuing other free agents whose presence will help the team reach the ultimate goal. Unloading Ovechkin's massive contract will allow the Capitals to do just that.
Alexander Ovechkin gets paid handsomely to score goals. And during the last two seasons, he has not given the Washington Capitals their money's worth.
The 2008-09 season was the first full year of Ovechkin's new contract and he scored 5.871 goals per million dollars, according to NHLnumbers.com. And Alex scored 5.498 goals per million dollars during the 2009-10 season.
But during the 2010-11 season, Ovechkin's spending efficiency fell drastically to 3.355 goals per million dollars. Ovechkin raised this number to 4.212 during the 2011-12 season, but it was still well below the first two years of the contract, when he was extremely cost-effective.
If Alexander Ovechkin's cost-effectiveness continues to decrease, then his trade value will decrease as well. If the Washington Capitals are to trade Alex Ovechkin and receive the maximum return possible, then they need to do it now.
An organization stays strong for an extended period of time by building through the draft.
The Washington Capitals have succeeded in recent years by doing just that. Several mainstays of the team were originally drafted by the Washington Capitals, including Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, John Carlson, Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson.
And of course, Alexander Ovechkin.
Trading a player the magnitude of Alexander Ovechkin would net several assets, not the least of which would be draft picks.
The Washington Capitals will still need an elite scorer on their top line to fill the void created by Ovechkin's departure. But saving money in the process would also benefit the franchise.
There are many cheaper alternatives available at left wing. One option would be Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal (pictured). The former Dallas Star had a breakout year with the Pens as he scored 40 goals during the 2011-12 season, two more than Ovechkin.
Only 24 years old, Neal finished the year with an efficiency rate of 13.913 goals per million dollars. Neal's salary for the 2012-13 season is $5.0 million, and his cap hit would also be $5.0 million.
But the Pittsburgh Penguins have the 13th highest salary cap number in the NHL, and already have the second and third highest individual player salaries in the league on their payroll in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, respectively. The Penguins may not want to take on the league's highest salary by trading for Alex Ovechkin.
Another possibility would be trading with the New York Islanders to acquire Matt Moulson. The 28-year-old winger scored 36 goals with the Isles in 2011-12, with a spending efficiency of 11.489 goals per million dollars.
Plus, he has scored at least 30 goals in each season since joining New York before the 2009-10 season, and increased his goal total each year as well.
On a better first line such as that of the Washington Capitals, Moulson could score 40 or more per season. And the Islanders may look to acquire a box-office draw like Ovechkin to rejuvenate their moribund franchise.
By saving money with a cheaper scoring alternative to Ovechkin, the Capitals will free up their finances to address a glaring deficiency.
The Washington Capitals and their fans got a painful reminder this June of the value of a shut-down defender, a specialist the Caps have tried in vain to acquire in recent years.
Two different shut-down defenders that the Caps had recently pursued were playing in the Stanley Cup Finals: Willie Mitchell of the Los Angeles Kings and Anton Volchenkov (pictured) of the New Jersey Devils.
And both players were only half of a shut-down pair of blue liners: Mitchell plays alongside Rob Scuderi, and Volchenkov plays with Bryce Salvador. It's no coincidence that the two teams that played in the Stanley Cup Finals both have a shut-down pair of defensemen.
New Jersey happens to be an intriguing trade partner for the Capitals in this situation. They recently lost a good deal of scoring with the departure of Zack Parise, a four-time 30-goal scorer and one-time 40-goal scorer during his seven-year career.
Alex Ovechkin can provide that level of scoring and higher. And the Devils could depart with either Volchenkov or Salvador and still keep one of their shut-down specialists.
Because if the Caps ever want to return to the Finals, they will need to follow the models of those who have gone there before them.
The Washington Capitals have already begun to change the culture of their organization.
Offensive-minded head coach Bruce Boudreau (pictured, with Ovechkin) was fired during the 2011-12 season and replaced by the defensive-minded Dale Hunter. Boudreau catered to Ovechkin, while Hunter did no such thing, even limiting his ice time during the playoffs.
When Hunter left suddenly after the 2012 postseason, he was replaced by rookie head coach Adam Oates. The former Capital's coaching style is still unknown, but as a player, he preached defensive responsibility and a two-way playing style to his teammates.
One major player who struggled with defensive responsibility has already left the team, as General Manager George McPhee made no effort to re-sign Alexander Semin. Alexander Ovechkin has also struggled with defensive responsibility in his career, sometimes being guilty of defensive indifference.
But more importantly, Alex Ovechkin is the captain of this team and has been since the 2009-10 season. His leadership affects the chemistry of the entire team.
The different elements of this team once formed a highly combustible compound, but now this combination of elements is largely inert. To obtain a more powerful product, the Capitals must remove their most potent element from the equation.