Would you trade Alex Ovechkin? Would you trade for Alex Ovechkin? Could you trade Alex Ovechkin? When Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan was quizzed on the topic of ‘Ovie’ on Tuesday, he mused about the issue, but pretty much poured cold water on the notion. MacLellan left the door open a crack, theorizing about a “legitimate hockey deal,” but it didn’t sound like a priority.
Nevertheless, it got me thinking: how many teams could actually trade for Ovechkin right now? It’s really not a long list.
First, you have to toss out the teams that don’t need him: Pittsburgh and Nashville are doin’ just fine, while Chicago and Tampa Bay have more than enough firepower up front. Toronto and Edmonton are on the rise and can’t waste valuable cap space for the future. Those teams are becoming contenders organically; they don’t need to gamble on the Capitals veteran. Other teams just aren’t close: Detroit and Vancouver are rebuilding and will be years away from contending – any gains made by adding Ovechkin would just gum up the process. Winnipeg has the next Ovechkin in Patrik Laine and he’ll be up for a big-time salary in two years, so the Jets must save their pennies.
Remember: Ovechkin brings a cap hit of $9.5 million until the summer of 2021. Even if the Caps retain some of that in a trade, it’s a big hunk of cap space taken up.
It’s also worth remembering that Washington probably doesn’t want to trade him within the division, unless the return would be spectacular. I thought of what the Islanders could swing, for example, but in order for the money to work, you’re probably looking at Nikolai Kulemin and a first-rounder – which doesn’t seem worth it. Philadelphia could offer Valtteri Filppula and a couple prospects (let’s say Robert Hagg and Mikhail Vorobyov for the sake of argument), but again – is that enough for Washington? I’m not so sure. Because you don’t have to trade Ovie. Yes, the contract will become more of a millstone with every passing year, but you just won the Presidents’ Trophy and took the eventual Eastern Conference playoff champ to seven games.
The final consideration revolves around Ovechkin’s modified no-trade clause. He can list 10 teams he does not want to go to and while I don’t know the list, I have to ask myself what the possibilities would be.
Would Ovie go to Arizona, for example? The Coyotes could offer some nice young players (let’s go with Christian Fischer and Brendan Perlini) plus a first-rounder in 2017 (Minnesota’s original selection, not the seventh overall pick, if GM John Chayka is a tough negotiator). Would he go to Carolina, where the Hurricanes could offer prospects Juien Gauthier, Jake Bean and a second-rounder? The latter also must consider the division rival aspect. This is tough!
Another to put in the would-he-go camp is Buffalo. Now, traditionally, that’s no-trade clause central. But the Sabres have two amazing centers in Ryan O’Reilly and Jack Eichel, so Ovechkin would have a great running mate, while being assured that the offense was not his burden alone. In return, Washington would get Evander Kane (still young, always controversial, hopefully the Caps are OK with the latter part), prospect Rasmus Asplund and a second-round pick in 2019, conditional on Kane re-signing with the Caps once his deal is done in 2018.
In terms of deals I am somewhat confident in, I’ve got two. The first is Dallas, where the Stars could offer Cody Eakin (which sends salary and some talent back to Washington), plus a first-rounder and a second-rounder in 2017 (the Stars have two first-rounders this year; they would send Anaheim’s pick, not their own at No. 3). The money will work, especially because we know they’re getting rid of at least one goalie, and Dallas is a win-now team. Washington gets some nice picks to replenish the coffers, plus a player who can contribute right now in Eakin.
The other deal involves Calgary. The Flames send Troy Brouwer back to Washington, which helps off-set Ovechkin’s salary. Calgary also gives up the rights to draft pick Adam Fox, currently at Harvard, plus a first-rounder in 2018.
Calgary’s forward corps gets a nice boost from Ovechkin, while Washington gets a little more financial wiggle room to re-sign T.J. Oshie and others.
Do any of these trades work? There are many ins and outs and if anything, I think it demonstrates how tough the situation is. While it’s fun to speculate, making a deal like this work for a Hall of Fame player who is entering the diminished part of his career while still lugging around a big-ticket contract on a win-now team is not easy.
If it doesn’t happen for a couple years, or ever, I can’t say I’ll be shocked.
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