There should be no doubt that the Washington Capitals Alexander Ovechkin can dominate a game of hockey. Leading the NHL with 38 goals this season, Ovechkin continues to put up impressive offensive numbers in guiding the Capitals to the brink of yet another playoff appearance.
Although finding a forward with a knack for putting the puck in the back of the net is on the top of most G.M’s to-do list, NHL squads must constantly evaluate just how valuable such a player is to the overall depth of the roster and whether they can shoulder the superstar contract that eats up valuable space under the $71.1 million salary cap.
Since Ovechkin inked his 13 year, $124 million deal to remain a Capital, he has eaten away approximately $9.5 million per year in cap space. This salary, which is the third highest in the league, behind only the Penguins’ Sydney Crosby and Nashville’s Shea Weber, equates to Ovechkin being compensated approximately $120,000 for each of the 76 points that he produced during his 2013-14 regular season.
With these figures in mind, the question now becomes whether Washington can continue to devote over 13 percent of their total cap space each year to an aging Ovechkin, who will turn 30 in September of this year.
As the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings exhibited last year, defense and goaltending can be a formula for playoff success. With the Capitals focusing so many of their resources on their front line, it becomes clear as to why the Capitals have not been able to break past the Conference Semi-Finals during Ovechkin’s Capital career.
This year appears to be no different as the Capitals currently sit at 21st in the league in goals allowed per contest at 2.79, while other Stanley Cup contenders sit at half a goal per game better or, in the LA Kings and Boston Bruin’s cases, even more.
Although Ovechkin may age better than other forwards who rely more on speed then their size, Ovechkin’s athletic peak has arrived. It will now become the most important decision of the Capitals’ front office to determine whether or not to stay with Ovechkin for seasons to come, or to maintain some value in building for the future by dealing Ovechkin to a team that is looking to win now.
If this season ends for the Caps like all the ones before; several big plays short of a Stanley Cup appearance, this decision may likely come sooner than many Capital fans think. With the amount of money Ovechkin commands, it may simply not make sense to keep on one star who can only do so much, while several younger stars may produce so much more for the long term value of the Capitals’ franchise.