From left, Washington Capitals president and owner Dick Patrick, left wing Alex Ovechkin, of Russia, and vice president and general manager George McPhee listen to chairman and majority owner Ted Leonsis, right, during a news conference that announced that the Capitals have signed Ovechkin to a $124 million, 13-year contract extension Thursday, Jan. 10, 2008, in Washington.
AP - Jan 10, 9:45 pm EST
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Alex Ovechkin was unshaved and his mop of hair was in dire need of a comb. He did, however, make one concession after signing the richest contract in NHL history.
He wore a suit. Stashed away were his bizarre color-clashing getups that would make Mr. Blackwell cringe.
"Well," he said with a shrug, "I'm still looking good."
Of course he is. He has a $124 million, 13-year contract extension with the Washington Capitals, a handsome reward for the charismatic, 22-year-old Russian who has been a nonstop goal-scorer since coming to the NHL in 2005.
"I'm happy I stay here," Ovechkin said. "It's my second home. I like the fans. I like the team. I like everything here."
It's not the longest deal in NHL history -- Rick DiPietro signed for 15 years with the New York Islanders -- and it didn't break the record for largest average salary, but it is the league's first contract to guarantee nine digits of income.
"I'm a risk-taker," said owner Ted Leonsis, who has made Ovechkin the cornerstone of a rebuilding plan to restore the Capitals as a perennial playoff team. "And if you're going to make a long-term investment, who else would you do it with? This takes away any of the issues of how committed we are to winning a Cup, how committed we are to keeping a team together."
The contract will pay Ovechkin $9 million per year for the first six years and $10 million per year for the following seven. A limited-movement clause kicks in after several years that will allow Ovechkin to select a handful of teams at the beginning of each season to which he cannot be traded.
And he won't have to pay an agent a dime. Ovechkin worked out the details himself Thursday afternoon in negotiations with Leonsis and general manager George McPhee. His parents, Tatiana and Mikhail, were also in town for the final round of talks for a deal that runs through the 2020-21 season.
Even so, Ovechkin didn't seem fazed by the gaudy numbers.
"Hockey is my life," he said with another shrug, "and money is money. ... If you think about money, you stop playing hockey."
Asked what he plans to buy with his new riches, he said: "I feel I have everything."
"A front tooth," added Leonsis, noting the big gap in Ovechkin's smile.
"Maybe razor," Ovechkin said.
Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, of Russia, speaks during a press conference to announce the Capitals have signed him to a 13-year, US$124-million contract extension, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2008, in Washington.
AP - Jan 10, 9:30 pm EST
More seriously, Ovechkin said he realizes the most lucrative contract the league has ever seen will carry an extra burden.
"I know it's extra pressure, but I have to play the same," he said. "If you think of pressure, it's hard for you. I have to play the same way -- play more, play better."
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft, Ovechkin was in the final season of a three-year, entry-level deal. His salary-cap number for this season, taking into account bonuses, is $3.83 million.
If Ovechkin had become a free agent at the end of the season, the Capitals would have had the right to match any offer from another team. He and the Capitals had been talking about an extension since the end of last season, and he said the rumors about his future were starting to get to him.
"When you read the newspaper and, like, 'Ovechkin can go over there,' 'Ovechkin can be traded,' you feel it," Ovechkin said. "But then you try and don't think about it, but you think about it. Right now, I think all about my game."
Leonsis said he was initially skittish about the length of the deal, having been burned by the eight-year, $88 million contract he gave Jaromir Jagr in 2001. The owner noted, however, that other contracts will surpass Ovechkin's in years to come, and that "in 10 years the deal might look really attractive."
"My bet is the money won't affect him," Leonsis said. "He'll play every shift like it's the seventh game of the finals of the Stanley Cup, and that's what we've come to love about him."
Ovechkin has 130 goals in his 2 1/2 seasons, tied with Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk for most among all NHL players over that span. Ovechkin had 52 goals and 54 assists in 2005-06, when he edged Pittsburgh forward Sidney Crosby in the voting for the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie. Ovechkin followed that up with 46 goals and 46 assists last season.
Ovechkin has 32 goals this season, helping Washington surge from the league's worst record to the fringe of the playoff race. He also has 20 assists.
The playoff run is heating up. We need Philly and Boston to lose a few games here in the upcoming weeks. Whether we make the playoffs or not, this team has as bright of a future as any other in Hockey. In Alex we trust.
You tell your fucking team to stop losing. I need to see AO in the playoffs so he can be a lock for the Hart. Otherwise I think Malkin wins it, which is bullshit. Especially since Lidstrom should win it before both of them.
C'mon you motherfuckers, show some enthusiasm!. Your team just tied for the division lead after a good chunk of time in last place in the East. Ridiculous goal by AO tonight, too. God I hope they win their last 2 games.