Monday, November 26, 2007

No Time to Panic

Since this summer there has been a lot of hand-wringing among the Caps faithful on the subject of Alex Ovechkin's contract. The second the Caps were allowed to negotiate with the Russian superstar people have been waiting for news that we've locked him up for twenty years, an anticipatory stance that only intensified after a number of big names signed long-term deals with their current clubs. I think some kid in Steeltown was in that group, but I could be wrong...

Now on the heels of the world's most obnoxious column (written by the world's most obnoxious columnist, Larry Brooks) the anxiety has reached a fever pitch. When are we going to sign him? Why haven't we signed him? Are we just biding our time until Alex, too, departs our fair city?? Are we going to lose OVIE???

I'm starting to feel like the yoga instructor for the DC Metro area. At the risk of repeating myself, I'm going to ask everyone once more to take a deeeeep breath.

First of all, Alex will be a restricted free agent. Restricted. Meaning as of July 1, he can receive offer sheets from other teams but the Caps always have the option of matching it. Let's put this into perspective - Kevin Lowe offered Thomas Vanek a huge, long-term contract. Buffalo matched. Vanek remains a Sabre. Ovechkin is just as much a cornerstone of our team as Vanek is for the Sabres, if not more - do people honestly think the Caps wouldn't match?

For that matter, what makes people think that whatever the Caps offer him wouldn't be upwards of the maximum he'd be able to get from anyone else anyway? Ovie is worth $10 million a year in my mind, more so than Vanek will be for Buffalo on his best day...and Vanek is a pretty decent player. The Caps have been saying for the last few years that they are building this team around Alex. So it would look pretty silly to let him walk after spending time and money to make this team Ovechkin-friendly.

The thing that is making people antsy is the timeline. As soon as Crosby signed his big "hometown discount" contract (oh, seriously, gag me) with the Pens, all eyes turned to Ovechkin to follow suit.

The problem there is that Ovie, for whatever reason, fired his agent this summer and is currently without representation. And no, his mother is not his agent and can't be - she's not licensed to do so. The fact that there is no contract yet and hardly even a whisper about negotiations for a contract makes me think Ovechkin is simply choosing not to deal with it right now. There's nothing wrong with that. He has until July...and it's November. We've only just cleared the turkey and stuffing from the table; if we get to March and there's no deal, then we'll talk.

So why is he waiting? Maybe, and this is just a theory, he's waiting to see what happens this year. And I'm not just referring to the team, although getting a winning record under their belts would certainly help the Caps in their bids to woo him into a long-term deal.

Ovie is coming off a somewhat disappointing season - yes, I know it sounds ridiculous to say that a 92-point season is disappointing, but frankly after his rookie year it wasn't what we expected and it definitely wasn't up to his standards. Last year at this time Ovie had 25 points; he was also a -6.

This season he is quietly putting together the best stretch of games we've seen out of him in his young career, with one more point through the same number of games and a surprising +1 rating on the year. And as the team starts to play better, so will Ovie (which has to be terrifying for the other 29 teams who have to play him).

Beyond that he's starting to grow into his leadership role and has taken it upon himself to be a mentor of sorts for both Semin and Backstrom while pushing himself and the team on the ice every night. I've said it so many times this season - he continues to be one of the best players on the ice night in and night out, and that's something I don't think we could always say about him in the past.

I don't think it is so hard to believe that maybe he wants his new contract to be based on his best performance and not on a year that he likely wants to forget. When all is said and done, sport is a business like anything else and if he's as smart as I think he is, the delay has less to do with him wanting out of DC and more to do with him simply wanting to be rewarded for and judged by his best work.

I think that's something we can all appreciate.


DMG said...

aw you beat me to it - I was going to write something like this after the busy stretch the Caps are on.

but you're right. Ovechkin isn't going anywhere

Shelby said...

This is off topic but...

Ick. We need to call Terminex. There's a slug infestation in Verizon Center.