In the past week, Dynamo Moscow’s general director, Andrey Safranov, has made several comments about trying to bring Capitals star winger Alex Ovechkin home to Russia and the KHL. Safranov went so far as to say that Ovechkin wants to return to Russia in his most recent statement, which the good folks at Russian Machine translated.
There are any number of reasons why the likelihood of Ovechkin abandoning the NHL at this stage of his career is slim. From his current contract with the Capitals, which has eight years and $79 million remaining on it, his status with global endorsement deals and, according to General Manager George McPhee, his drive to succeed in the NHL.
McPhee declined to comment directly Wednesday on the statements made by Safranov, “That’s a question I’ll probably duck for a long time,” he said. But McPhee did say that he’s never doubted Ovechkin’s desire to play in and be a part of the NHL.
“When we were trying to sign him the first time around we had just come out of a lockout and I think we had three days to sign him,” McPhee recalled of the Capitals’ negotiations with Ovechkin back in 2005. “He was under contract with a club over there – and I think he had a one or two day window to come here. We were on the phone with this parents, translators, I think there was a big group and Ovi kept telling his parents and everybody else in the room ‘I want to play in the NHL’. From day one this kid’s always wanted to play over here, and I don’t imagine he’s going to want to go back any time soon.
“He wants to win a Cup.”
Coach Adam Oates called the comments by Safranov “propaganda” and said that once Ovechkin, who is in New York taking part in an NHL media tour with other elite players, arrives in Washington it will be discussed.
“Someone in Dynamo said ‘We’re going to try and talk to him’. That’s got nothing to do with us or Ovi, that’s from one guy over there,” Oates said. “It’s an Olympic year there, it’s in Russia and maybe they’re trying to gain some notoriety with their league, some attention. I’m sure it will be addressed.”
Still, Oates acknowledged that because Ilya Kovalchuk walked away from his lucrative contract with the New Jersey Devils in order to return to Russia the possibility that other players might depart can’t be ignored. Oates said he’s received no indication from Ovechkin that the star winger would want to leave the NHL, but added that he never had one from Kovalchuk during his two years as an assistant with the Devils either.
With the start of training camp just over a week away, Oates wants to ensure this doesn’t become a distraction for the Capitals and is looking forward to seeing what else Ovechkin can achieve in the upcoming season.
“He had a great year, a fantastic second half and I think he feels really good – where he is right now, about his game and the unfinished business about continuing to take the organization farther down the line. Hopefully this doesn’t distract from that and we don’t make too much of it and it gets solved soon.”