I've been an Ovechkin fan for a long time. I loved his combination of size, speed, skill and toughness. He's still amongst the league leaders in hits (29th) and of course he leads the league in goals with 48. He also has the leagues worst +/- rating of -36. If only this were golf. Go ahead and say it's just an off year and point at his goal totals and I'll point to plays like the one against Dallas. The lasting effects on impressionable youngsters and how it pulls at the trust of the other veterans is known only within the room, but surely it has to be questioned. I'll point to the fact that in eight seasons with Ovechkin the Capitals haven't made it out of the second round of the playoffs. They may not even qualify for the playoffs in this the ninth year. After Ovechkin, the Caps have Nicklas Backstrom (-21) and not much else. This isn't the set up that can work in Pittsburgh or Chicago where another superstar can take the reins for a bit. Backstrom isn't good enough to control a game himself and their isn't enough skill in the room to help fill Ovechkin's void if he were to get injured. It's clear that the organization is not in a position to win with him. There is very little scoring depth behind him and holes on defense. Per CapGeek.com the Caps have the highest payroll of the teams currently out of the playoff race and Ovechkin has the highest salary cap hit in the league. It's time to move on.
Looking deeper, there's more proof that this isn't such a crazy idea. Of the top 30 point leaders in the league, nine of them are on at least their second team: Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin, Joe Thornton, Patrick Sharp, Chris Kunitz, Martin St. Louis, Blake Wheeler, Thomas Vanek and Jaromir Jagr. Of the nine, I would say that five of them were known commodities before reaching their second team. Those being Kessel, Seguin, Thornton, Vanek and Jagr. Their respective teams knew they had elite players on their hands and dealt them anyway. Even Wayne Gretzky was traded one year younger (27) than Ovechkin is right now and that was after multiple Cups! Holding on to a single star in this league just doesn't work. The overall talent level has grown too much for a single player to control a game. Crosby needs Malkin. Kane needs Toews. For teams that don't have that one big star, they need ultimate depth and teamwork. An example of that is St. Louis who doesn't have a single player in the top 30 scorers yet they're battling for the President's Trophy.
In the end it to comes down to more than his goals. I want to know why Ovechkin wears the "C". Again, I've been a big fan of Ovi for years, but his attitude is wearing thin. What makes him a Captain? What is it about his game and leadership that's going to help Evgeny Kuznetsov reach the next level? He's as dynamic and enigmatic as they come. It's time for the Caps to move on and get pieces, or building blocks if you will, in place to build a team - not a one man show. But who would take him? Starting July 1st of this year, Ovechkin can submit a list of 10 teams he will not accept a trade to so the Caps will either have to make a move at the Draft or see how things play out in the summer after he submits his list. Washington needs to take advantage of the strong 2015 Draft Class and look for a combination of picks and players. I can't help but think there are a couple of teams who may extend themselves to make a deal happen to either A - put their team on the map, or B - put their team over the hump. It's tough to say which teams would be interested because they're going to have to have the skill and depth to make the move work for Washington as well. They'll need to replace his scoring and make the deal worthwhile for the Caps. One other key to a deal - I would imagine Washington preferred it landed Ovechkin in the West. A team from the East would likely have to dish out a bit more since the Caps would end up having to face him more often.
Would Vancouver be interested? A middle 1st round pick this year and Ryan Kesler (if he agrees to it)? Would Bieksa or Hamhuis get involved somehow? It may seem lopsided, but with Kesler trying to force his way out Gillis may take the chance to put Ovi with the Sedins.
What about Winnipeg? Would Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien be parts of a deal? Ovechkin with Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler could be very interesting.
San Jose has loads of offensive talent, but would Thornton deal with Ovechkin taking shifts off. This one is a stretch, but I believe it's doable.
Now, for the ultimate "no way" deal: how about the Hurricanes? Word out of Carolina is that everyone is available at the end of the season. They want to clean house. I think Ovechkin and Eric Staal could be centerpieces of a huge deal, reuniting Ovechkin and Semin with both teams hitting the reset button on their franchises without having to set them back several seasons.
Suggesting the landing spots for a monster swap involving a superstar is a total shot in the dark. You never know who may come up with a deal. But the fact of the matter stands that Ovechkin and the Caps need to split. We know why. We just need the who, where and when.