Thursday, January 10, 2008

Free at last, free at last...thank God Almighty, we are free at last...Ovechkin will stay.

There are reports emerging that Alexander Ovechkin has signed a contract extension with the Washington Capitals. and report that the deal is for six years and $54 milion. The team at On Frozen Blog has more.

If true, the short term benefit is a end to the drum beat of "Alex shouldn't play in Washington" talk. That is worth the good news of the signing on its own merits. It also removes a potential distraction from a club that doesn't need one as it tries to climb the standings on the heels of recent success.

In the mid term, it will turn attention to the status of Mike Green, who is also a restricted free agent at the end of this season, and whose signing is more problematic in that one can more readily imagine scenarios in which an offer sheet would not be matched. That's not to say it is likely -- we think it unlikely -- but one can imagine more plausible scenarios that could unfold to carry Green to another city.

In the long term, the signing might be a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that, if reports are true, the cap hit is less than Ovechkin might have commanded in a bidding situation where one need only have one of 29 other teams offer a max contract to make the lives of the Caps management more difficult. It is more than that for which Sidney Crosby signed, which will irk purists and Crosby fans, but does provide the Caps some additional wiggle room in payroll, if they choose to use it.

On the other hand, the deal -- reportedly -- is for six years, expiring at the end of the 2012-2013 season, at which time Ovechkin will be a few months shy of his 28th birthday. Absent being spirited away by aliens, Ovechkin would be entering the prime of his career (isn't that a scary thought) and would have the world of hockey at his feet without the encumbrance of "restricted" before the term, "free agent." In this sense, the term of the deal becomes the window in which the Caps have an opportunity to build a consistent contender and to win a Stanley Cup. In that sense, the signing has just made the job of the Caps to build that contender a bit more urgent.
But those are all distant clouds -- ones to be mindful of, but not so much so as to detract from the bright sunny day before Caps fans. And a sunny, sunny day it is. Ovechkin will stay.