There has been a lot of talk about Ovechkin's "terrible" contract and his underperformance. There has been talk about his trade value and even a local media member suggesting a straight-up trade for Rick Nash. I'll start with that idea and then move on to Ovi's contract.
The Ovi-Nash trade was described on this forum as the dumbest idea in history, to which others countered that the expected performance of the two over the next six years does not justify for the $1.7M difference in salaries. Of course, that is assuming that the two's decline will be equal, but does not seem to account that such a decline would be from two different levels.Ovechkin is better than Nash. Period. Full Stop.
Nash is a year older and is in his 9th NHL season. He has two 40+ goal seasons (40,41) and at this point: 279 goals and 530 points. This gives him a 31 goal/season average and .81 points/game for his career.
Ovechkin is in his 7th season. He has five 40+ goal seasons (52,46,65,56,50) and at this point: 326 goals and 660 points. This gives him a 47 goal/season average and 1.24 points/game for his career. (Ovechkin's stats have also been dragged down by this horrible year. He came into this year as a 1.3 points/game player.)
Some may say that Ovi is helped by the talent surrounding him and that Nash doesn't have that kind of help. Well, Ovechkin didn't alway have that help either. The rosters for the Caps in the 2005 and 2006 season were pretty sparse on talent - but during those seasons Ovi was a 1.2 points/game player.
Bottom line is that even if the performance has plateaued and is on the decline, Ovechkin started from a much higher elevation than Nash.
Now that's out of the way - let's talk about that contract. $9.5M a year for the cap hit is a huge chunk of change. And really the only reason we're talking about it, is that he's not scoring like he used to. But the situation is not as bleak as some would make it seem. More on that later.
But is it really the killer that everyone says it is? Nope. Not over the long term. And that is what the analysis at this site said when the contract was announced. Take a look at the comments. Especially from the user Rage about halfway through. He later wrote a guest post where he explained what a deal the contract was for the Caps and how Ovi left money on the table. Check the comments there and let me know who said it was a terrible contract, because I missed it if they did.
In the first year of the contract (2008-09, when everyone loved it - except those on the outside that complained that the length was somehow circumventing the cap) the NHL salary cap was set at $56.7M and Ovechkin's salary represented 17% of the Cap's spending. Of course, Ovi scored 65 goals the previous season which was 27% of the total scored by the team that year, so they looked to be getting a bargain. In the 2008-09 season, had 21% of the goals for the team and point total was 15% of the team's total. In the 2009-10 season he was still 17% of the Caps spending, but he dropped to 16% of the team's goals, and 13% of the team's points. But this was less about Ovi's production dropping and more about the rest of the team's rising. Even in 2010-11, when Ovi had his worst year yet - his meager 32 goals were 15% of the team's total scored, and he generated 14% of the points. That year his cap hit represented 16% of the Capitals' spending. This year? His salary is 15% of total spending, and he's providing 15% of the goals, but only 11% of the points. The point is that while his scoring will decline, so will the damage his contract does against the cap.
Last year the cap increased 8% from $59.4M to $64.3M, and it's likely to go up next year as well (of course, we don't know exactly what the new CBA will bring) based on what we know about attendance figures and sponsorship deals, never mind the 10-year $2B TV deal with NBC. So conservatively, if the salary cap increases by an average of 4% each year by 2021, the cap will be at $91.5M (that sounds ridiculous, but today the NFL's is at $122M). At that point, Ovechkin will only represent 10% of the spending against the cap. Not only that, but looking at inflation (figuring at 3%) - Ovi's cap hit of $9.5M will be equivalent to $8.2M in 5 years and $7.3M in 9 years in today's dollars. In other words, a contract equivalent to Ovi's would be $11M to have the same purchasing power in 5 years.
So will Ovechkin's contract keep the Caps from icing a competent team next year? I don't think so. I've made some assumptions regarding trades and UFAs not coming back, and the salary cap rising by 3% - but here's what next season's roster could look like.
CAPGEEK.COM CAP CALCULATOR
Dmitri Orlov ($0.900m) / Tomas Kundratek ($0.816m)
BUYOUTS: Tyler Sloan ($0.233m)
CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)
(these totals are compiled without the bonus cushion)
SALARY CAP: $66,800,000; CAP PAYROLL: $62,724,016; BONUSES: $507,500
CAP SPACE (24-man roster): $4,075,984
I've also made some guesses about the arrival of Kuz and gave him a deal that was equivalent to Ovi's, with all the bonuses added in, which he may not get. Also about some raises that are due for Green, Carlson, Perreault, and Beagle. Tom Poti is included - though he may be bought out - saves money next year, but then carries over about $900K into the 13-14 season. Even with him on the roster, that leaves over $4M in cap space.
Maybe the Caps don't get Stastny, but Derek Roy could be available for less. Maybe Plekanec, who is also cheaper. The point is that with Semin and some of the other UFAs gone there is room for a 2C and money left over to upgrade the role players a bit if need be. And we still don't know who the Caps will get in the draft. But a 2C has been a glaring hole in the roster for years and unfortunately the money that should have gone to get one - was spent on Alex Semin (a career .87 points/game player) and assorted "loyal soldier" contracts - but I think GMGM is getting better at that, the Hendricks contract being an example. Yes, in the short term Ovechkin's contract does hinder us a bit - but he was worth the money when the deal was signed and nobody thought the last year and the present would turn out the way they did.
Now, a quick note on Ovi's production. Yes, last year was bad as he was only a 1.1 points/game player. But he actually started and finished strong - going at a 1.3 points/game pace in both the first and last 25 games of the season. It was the middle 50 games (yes I know it overlaps and there are only 82 games in the season) where he was .94 point/game player that dragged his average down. And while his point/game has been a dismal .83, it's actually trending up. Ovi started at .76 points/game in his first 25 and is .96/game in his last 25 games played. And it would likely be higher if Backstrom in the last 20. In fact, in the 16 games after BB was fired and before Backstrom went down, Ovi went from a .77 points/game player to a 1.0 points/game player. In the last five games they played together Ovi was hitting his stride and was at 1.8 points/game and 1.2 goals/game. It was this brief period that pulled his points/game average up, because in the last 20 without Backstrom he's down to a .75 points/game pace. Once Backstrom returns to service, I bet Ovi's numbers will look better too.
Last, adding a 2C to the lineup will also do wonders for Ovi's point totals. I don't think it is a coincidence that Ovi's best years came when the Caps had someone who could be called a 2C. Granted, Fedorov and Morrison's best days were behind them when they were here. Neither put up big numbers when they were here, but they did contribute to the secondary scoring (something the current team is lacking) and at least they could be depended on to not make major mistakes. Sometimes that's all you need. And certainly something the Caps don't have now.