Nothing can stop Alex Ovechkin.
Not NHL defenders, not the Pittsburgh Penguins any longer and not even Father Time.
And while there’s no question the 34-year-old hasn’t slowed down — scoring career goal No. 669 on Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs to pass Luc Robitaille for 12th on the all-time list — there is a question about where one of the game’s greatest scorers will end up if he does decide to stop playing professional hockey.
Ovechkin’s 13-year, $124-million contract expires in the summer of 2021 and the Washington Capitals star has previously hinted that he doesn’t like change and has only played for two teams in his career — the Washington Capitals and Moscow Dynamo — leaving a potential return to Russia on the table.
But if Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan had it his way, Ovechkin would retire in D.C.
“Yeah, I mean, we obviously want Ovi to finish his career on a high – and in Washington,” MacLellan told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun in a Q&A published Wednesday.
“He’s been a huge part of the organization, a huge part of the whole market in our area. He’s grown the game, he’s grown the franchise. We want him to play the right amount of years and we want him to feel good about his career and where he’s at. Hopefully that all works out in his and the organization’s favor at the end.”
And even though seasons can come and go in a flash — it seems like yesterday that a fresh-faced, tinted-visor wearing Ovechkin was taking the NHL by storm as a rookie — MacLellan said it’s “still a little early” to talk to him about a new contract.
“I think it changes for him. Just in passing. I think depending on how he’s feeling physically. I think at some point he probably would have said, ‘I’ll just play it out and go home.’ And now he’s probably thinking … I think winning a championship probably affected him quite a bit, where it took that edge or pressure off from the stuff around him,” he said.
“He’s more settled in. He got married, had a kid, he won a Cup, all those things I think factor into how he finishes up his career.”
Ovechkin, for his part, admitted that his future is up in the air when asked by Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek on the 31 Thoughts podcast last month.
“It’s hard for me to say what’s going to happen, but I’m pretty sure me and (Capitals owner Ted Leonsis) and (MacLellan) are going to talk about it in the future and we will decide,” he said.
When asked about how much his desire for his young son to learn Russian and grow up in his home country would affect his decision, Ovechkin shifted gears to focus on his health.
“I think for us the most important thing is to get healthy. If you’re healthy and you can still play the game you want to play, you should think about ‘OK, maybe a couple more years,’ if not I don’t want to be like player who signs a contract and then I’m like ‘OK, I’m hurt and I’m just going to get paycheque and enjoy my life.’ I don’t want to do that,” he said on the 31 Thoughts podcast.
So far the Russian machine keeps chugging along, but its final destination remains unclear.