Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ovechkin Signs 13-Year, $124 Million Contract

Alexander the Great has a contract worthy of his nickname -- the first $100 million deal in NHL history.

Alexander Ovechkin signed a $124 million, 13-year contract extension Thursday with the Washington Capitals, a handsome reward for the charismastic 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 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 was carefree when asked about the gaudy numbers.

"Hockey is my life," he said, shrugging, "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."

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.

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."

Ovechkin has 130 goals in his 2½ 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.

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