Alex Ovechkin Returns to Capitals on 5-Year, $47.5M Contract: 'I'm Back DC!'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 27, 2021

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) in action during the first period in Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Boston Bruins, Sunday, May 23, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Nick Wass/Associated Press

The Alex Ovechkin era isn't over just yet for the Washington Capitals after the future Hall of Famer signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract on Tuesday.

Alex Ovechkin @ovi8

I’M BACK DC !!!!! #ALLCAPS https://t.co/7XQPfT6aZP

Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic tweeted out details of the contract's structure:

Pierre LeBrun @PierreVLeBrun

Alex Ovechkin contract structure: 2021-22 $1M salary $4M signing bonus 2022-23 $1M salary $9M sb 2023-24 $1M salary $11.5M sb 2024-25 $5M salary $6M sb 2025-26 $5M salary $4M sb @TSNHockey @TheAthletic

The 35-year-old continued to deliver on the ice in his 16th season, leading the Caps in goals (24) to go along with 18 assists in just 45 appearances.

Ovechkin is the greatest player in franchise history and the Capitals' all-time leader in games played (1,197), goals (730) and points (1,320). His role in the 2018 Stanley Cup triumph cemented his status among Washington, D.C., sports legends.

The state of the Caps raised serious questions earlier this year about his long-term future in the nation's capital, though. Following Washington's Game 5 defeat, the Russian wasn't in a mood to talk about his next contract.

"We just lost in a playoff series," he told reporters. "Let's talk about my contract and all those stuff later on."

His final decision was bound to chart the Capitals' path for the next few years.

Since winning that title, Washington failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs, losing in five games in each of the last two seasons. 

General manager Brian MacLellan is running into the same problems that arise for any NHL team that has enjoyed a sustained run of success. The key veterans get older and more expensive, and adjusting on the fly grows even more difficult.

The team's goaltender situation was a microcosm of the situation. Braden Holtby signed with the Vancouver Canucks ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, which left the Capitals leaning on a pair of netminders (Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov) without any playoff experience. Samsonov wound up allowing 10 goals in three playoff starts.

The Capitals can't exactly rebuild with an aging Ovechkin still on the roster, so they have to pry their championship window open as much as they can. That won't be easy when they're due to have a projected payroll of $77.4 million for 2021-22.

Brian McNally @bmcnally14

Caps GM Brian MacLellan and his staff have a lot of decisions to make this summer as the Ovechkin era winds down sooner than later. Given his history, I'd bet on some bold ones.

The Washington Post's Samantha Pell also explained how MacLellan has to grapple with more considerations, like what to do with Samsonov and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Samsonov, a restricted free agent, played well in the regular season, finishing with a .902 save percentage and 2.69 goals-against average. But he didn't go above and beyond to leave the Caps with an easy decision about his possible return.

Kuznetsov, on the other hand, didn't deliver. Twenty-nine points in 41 games isn't a good return for a player with $31.2 million to run over four years. Pell reported that "there is frustration in the organization over his lack of on-ice production coupled with off-ice problems."

Re-signing Ovechkin is better than the alternative because it would be great to see him begin and end his career in D.C. And while a rebuild is inevitable at some point, kicking the can down the road makes sense when it's done to accommodate a veteran who has achieved everything he has.

But MacLellan has a lot of work ahead to get the team meaningfully closer to a title in 2022.