Written by WJWhite30
The Great Eight’s contract is finally coming to an end after 13 seasons, making him a free agent and one of the biggest fish on the UFA market this offseason. As Alex Ovechkin has been a staple for the Washington Capitals and brought them a Stanley Cup back in 2018, it is a pretty safe assumption to think he will re-sign in DC.
But what if he doesn’t?
The Capitals are entering an offseason with very little cap space and they also need to re-sign RFA Jakub Vrana to a new deal. With guys like Oshie, Backstrom, Wilson, and Carlson all locked up, they do not have much wiggle room to spend on Ovi. Not to mention, their window to win is still very much open. I think it would be political suicide to not sign one of the most prolific goal scorers in NHL history, but we have seen weirder things happen.
Despite being on the back 9 of his career, the 35-year-old is still scoring at an unheard-of pace and shows no signs of slowing down. His trajectory shows that he can catch Gretzky’s goal record in only 4 more seasons. Who ever thought a Gretzky record would ever be caught, let alone passed?
This is not an article to praise Ovechkin, but to discuss the unthinkable. What if he decides to go somewhere else?
Imagine seeing a different shade of red on the Great 8.
Like most Russians, Ovi has a house in South Florida and can be spotted training at local rinks over the summer. Besides enjoying the beach and flip flop lifestyle, would he be a good fit for the Panthers?
Ovechkin would be leaving a perennial Cup contender for a team who has not won a playoff series since 1996. Would he be the immediate impact that would put the Panthers over the cusp and make them a team to take seriously? More importantly, would he want to leave a “sure thing” for an up-and-coming team that is still trying to fill in the missing pieces?
Barkov and Ovi could be partnered with anyone and still would put together a combination that could rival Boston’s perfection line. No one would doubt their ability to put the puck in the net. But would the Panthers want to make that type of investment on another 1-way player?
The Panthers did not struggle to score goals this season, but instead struggled at keeping the puck out of their own net. As we saw with Hoffman, the Panthers were not fond of a one-dimensional player who is only looking to play in the offensive zone. I am sure there were other reasons behind letting Hoffman walk, but his lackadaisical attitude towards team defense certainly didn’t help.
There is not much that the Panthers can do about Bobrovky’s contact, but would the remaining cap space be better spent on locking down the blue line instead of chasing Ovechkin? I can imagine a guy like Seth Jones would get comparable contract offers to what Ovi will be asking for. Would the better investment be in a guy like Jones versus chasing an aging superstar?
The benefits of signing a player like Ovi would be very similar to signing Bob a few seasons ago.
First, the Panthers struggle to sell tickets. Bringing in a player like the Great Eight will generate revenue in the forms of ticket and jersey sales. Fans will come to see a future hall of famer play. Collectors, whether in Florida or not, would want to buy an Ovechkin jersey from one of his few seasons outside of the DC area. It makes sense for a small market team to make that push.
Additionally, it would add excitement to a league where “blockbuster trades” and superstar movement are basically unheard of. Imagine people watching Sports Center to see where Ovi ends up much like “The Decision” before Lebron “brought his talents to South Beach”. Could we have a new “decision”?
Where will Alexander Ovechkin end up next season if it is not with the Caps? Are the Cats a contender in the race for #8? Who knows? With the no state income tax and the sandy beaches, Ovi may be willing to take a “hometown” discount.