Capitals ‘will not rebuild team’ as Ovechkin chases record

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has told his star captain that his team will not be rebuilt with Alex Ovechkin on the roster, promising the club will remain competitive while chasing Wayne Gretzky’s all-time NHL goalscoring record.

The Capitals are now out of a playoff berth after 30 games. They haven’t made it to the first round of the playoffs since winning the Stanley Cup in 2018, and they average the second oldest roster in the NHL this season (age 30), behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins (30.3).

Washington is gearing up for a roster overhaul next season, with just 10 players contracted for 2023-24, including just one defender. However, Leonsis said it would not be a rebuild.

“I’m not going to do what I did last time and trade everybody,” Leonsis said, referring to the total devastation the Capitals endured nearly 20 years ago, when they chose Alex Ovechkin in the first general election in 2004. Draft.

“I’m sure there will be an influx of young players, but we will not rebuild the team,” he said. “For me, rebuilding is looking into the eyes of the players, the coaches, the fans and saying that we’re going to be really bad. And I don’t think Alex would have collapsed if we were really bad at the record.”

Ovechkin has 797 career goals, four behind Gordie Howe, behind Gretzky’s NHL record of 894 goals, an all-time second.

The 37-year-old left wing signed a five-year contract extension in the Summer of 2021 to set a scoring record with the Capitals. Leonsis said in his contract negotiations, Ovechkin made it clear that while playing there, he wanted Washington to be a relevant and competitive team.

“He is very aware of doing this the right way,” Leonsis said as he joined the NHL Board of Governors. “Alex said, ‘I’m not going to be the third line player playing 8-10 minutes in the power play (here)]and I’m not going to take me to the power play and let me score goals. That’s not what I want to do. I promise. You’re going to keep the team with me competitive (and a playoff team).’ And he promised to always get in shape and focus on winning another Stanley Cup, not sticking to the record.”

Leonsis said the two sides agreed that if the Capitals remained competitive, Ovechkin would have “a lot of goals, a lot of power play chances” and that he might not have to face his opponents’ toughest defensive tasks in every match.

Ovechkin says that if he comes close to breaking Gretzky’s record, Leonsis “The Great One” has promised the team that he will attend all of the Capitals star’s games – just as Howe did for Gretzky while chasing Howe’s NHL points record. 1989.

Leonsis compared Gretzky’s dedication to what was happening in other sports as records were about to fall.

“It didn’t happen in baseball where there was reluctance … that Wayne was as graceful as he was,” Leonsis said. “Wayne knows Alex is legit and they have a friendship now. He promised us. He said, ‘I want to fly around and go from every stop.’ So last season, when he’s in sight, he’ll probably move in with us.”

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