Capitals star left wing Alex Ovechkin will return to Washington early this week to prepare for a shortened 2012-13 season, according to his IMG agent, David Abrutyn.
Multiple times during the NHL labor dispute, Ovechkin suggested that he and other Russian players might not return to North America if the new collective bargaining agreement drastically cut their contracts.
Despite those comments, it seemed unlikely that Ovechkin would opt not to return to the Capitals. All NHLPA constituents who played overseas during the lockout are obligated to return or be subject to repercussions for breaching their NHL contract.
The tentative deal that the NHL and NHLPA agreed to does not include a rollback of existing player contracts, which was Ovechkin’s primary concern in remarks he made as early as Sept. 4 – two weeks before the lockout began. Escrow may escalate under the new CBA, however.
Ovechkin, who has lost $4,281,081 during the lockout, spent the work stoppage playing for his hometown Dynamo Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League. He finished with 19 goals and 21 assists in 31 games and was slated to be a starter in the KHL All Star game had the NHL not resumed.
Meanwhile, Ovechkin’s teammate on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean is already on his way back to Washington. Nicklas Backstrom flew back to North America on Sunday, according to Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.
Backstrom recorded 10 goals and 15 assists in 19 KHL games but missed Dynamo Moscow’s previous three contests after suffering a neck bruise on Dec. 26. It’s unclear whether the injury would limit Backstrom’s participation in training camp or the start of the season
“It feels so good to finally go back home,” Backstrom told Aftonbladet, according to a translation by Malin Andersson. “That’s what Washington feels like for me now, like it’s my home. But above everything else, I’m just really excited about playing in the NHL again.”
Training camps are expected to start by the end of the week, even as early as Wednesday, pending the ratification of the tentative agreement by the NHL’s Board of Governors and the NHLPA’s roughly 750 constituents.
According to CBC’s Elliotte Friedman, the NHL sent a memo to all teams stating that training camps will not start before Saturday with the intention of kicking off a 48-game season on Jan. 19. Though it’s still possible the two sides could aim for a faster start, depending on how quickly the ratification process is completed.