It’s a nervous time for many of the Washington Capitals’ faithful. The franchise icon and team Captain, Alex Ovechkin, has an expiring contract coming up this summer, with unrestricted free agency looming on the horizon. To add to this bit of uneasiness, there appears to have been little progress in negotiations for a new deal for Ovechkin during the season.
“Appears” is the operative word here.
I thought I’d write a quick post to remind folks of a potential strategy that could very well be in the works by the Capitals and Ovechkin camps. Some are aware of the approach, but many are not, so it’s worthy to reiterate the circumstances and likely outcome.
To better set the scene, this summer (July 21) will also include the expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken, who begin play this fall. The existing 31 teams have several potential protection schemes for who on their rosters they can protect from being drafted by the Kraken, but most teams will go with the 7-3-1 protection scheme: Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender.
One would immediately assume that Alex Ovechkin would be one of the seven forwards protected in the draft, right? Not so fast.
If you dig a little deeper into the finer print you will see that unsigned, unrestricted free agents (such as Ovechkin) have a slightly different availability when it comes to the expansion draft. Seattle can select them (the week before free agency begins), but then they would need to negotiate a new deal with a player of that status when free agency opens (July 28). If they don’t reach a deal, the player is free to negotiate with whichever team he wants.
Enter Alex Ovechkin. If the Capitals left him unprotected, the Capitals could protect one additional forward, say Conor Sheary or Lars Eller, depending on your own preferred protection list. The list might look something like this for forwards:
Kuznetsov, Wilson, Backstrom, Oshie, Mantha, Sheary, Eller
Ok, thats sounds good, so far, but what about Ovechkin? Leaving him unsigned until free agency opens sounds risky.
If selected by the Kraken, Ovechkin could go through the motions but refuse to sign a deal with Seattle once free agency begins and circle back to the Capitals and finalize his contract extension. It’s likely that Seattle will see that signing Ovechkin would be a pipe-dream, and not even select the Great 8, for fear of eventually wasting a draft pick.
Ovechkin has stated repeatedly that he wants to re-sign with the Capitals and finish his career in Washington. The Capitals have re-iterated the same. There are really no reasons to think differently. The quietness of the negotiations and resistance by both parties to discuss could likely mean an agreement in principle has been reached and the plan is in place to better the team as a whole.
Anything is possible in this crazy world, but if I had to place my money on how the Ovechkin contract situation will play out, I’d bet he re-signs after the expansion draft, during free agency. It’s what’s best for the team as a whole, allowing the Capitals to protect an additional player from being drafted by the Kraken.
By Jon Sorensen