Superman Signed

Big news yesterday for Washington Capitals fans. Alex “the Great” Ovechkin (aka Superman) signed the biggest contract in NHL history – $124 million over 13 years. According to Eric McErlain, that’s an average of over $300k per hour of ice time and $5k per shift. Nice work if you can get it.

Actually, all kidding aside, this is a great move for the Caps.

The financial bar was set last summer when Sid “the Kid” Crosby signed a 5-year $43.5 million contract extension – about $8.7 million a season. Since then, Caps fans have had to suffer thru rumor after rumor that our man Alex wasn’t going to be playing in DC much longer. However, the suggestion that Ovechkin would be leaving never made any sense to me. He was slated to become a restricted free agent this summer – meaning the Caps would have the opportunity to match any offer. Furthermore, the max any player can get under the new CBA is 20% of the salary cap – currently about $50 million. So it was pretty obvious Ovechkin was going to stay a Cap and get paid somewhere between $8.7 and $10 a season.

More impressive than the dollars is the length of the contract. Not only is it the wealthiest in the league, it’s the second longest (Islanders goalie signed a $67.5 million 15 year contract before the start of last season). This contract means Ovechkin is slated to spend at least 16 years in a Caps uniform. In this era of free agency, more often than not you end up “rooting for the laundry” since the players come and go so quickly. It’s nice to know the #8 Caps jersey I got for Christmas will be relevant until the 2020′s.

Also, signing Ovechkin for that long makes massive financial sense, even if some “experts” can’t (won’t) see the value. The salary cap increased from $39 million for the 2005-06 season to $50 million this season. Can the league sustain 13% revenue growth for the foreseeable future? If so, the salary cap will be in the $100 million range by the time Crosby’s deal expires. Even if revenues only grow at half that rate, we’re still looking at a salary cap in the low $70 millions by 2013. So Crosby will be looking to make at least $14 million and maybe as much as $20 million per season when he resigns. Viewed that way, getting Ovechkin for “only” $9.5 mil a season makes good financial sense.

Of course, the last time the Caps committed this kind of money to a superstar, it didn’t work out so well. But unlike Jagr, who got his new contract before skating shift one for the Caps, we know what #8 can do while wearing the Eagle. Owner Ted Leonsis isn’t paying for potential on blind faith, he knows what Ovechkin can do and how much he means to this team. Based on the past two and 1/2 seasons, I think Leonsis is getting his money’s worth.

Speaking of Ted, my father ran into him @ the seasons ticket holder’s event they held last night. When he mentioned that he’s “Devhawk’s Dad”, Ted recalled how I “reamed him a new one” as well as meeting me. For the record, I still think trading Bondra was a mistake, though time has demonstrated it was a fairly minor one. More importantly, it was an isolated mistake. Since then, I think Ted and the Caps have done almost everything right, both on and off the ice. If you’re reading this Ted, keep up the good work and I take back that whole “abomination to the sport of hockey” thing.

And don’t look now, but the Caps are 12-6-4 since the changing coaches. Had they been playing at that pace all season, they’d have around 55 points and the second best record in the Eastern Conference right now. Good to know, but not very relevant since they did, in fact, start the season 6-14-1. However, if they can stay on this pace for the second half of their season, they would end with around 93 points – probably enough to get them in the playoffs. (Last year’s eighth seed ended with 92 points.) Furthermore, Carolina currently leads the Southeast Division, but they’re only on pace to reach 86 points. So even with the horrific start, the Caps are still poised to make a playoff run.

In the press release announcing the contract, Alex is quoted saying “I want to bring the Stanley Cup to Washington”. Even if they do make the playoffs, I think the Caps are still a year or two away from honestly being competitive for the Cup – though I’d love to be wrong about that. Either way, it’s nice to know Alex has 13 years to make the Caps’ Stanley Cup dreams a reality.

To quote Mike Vogel, “It feels like morning in Washington.” I may be displaced in the “wrong” Washington, but I feel it just the same.