Alexander Ovechkin, the NHL's No. 1 overall draft pick in 2004, officially became a member of the Washington Capitals yesterday.
Capitals General Manager George McPhee and Ovechkin's agent, Don Meehan, agreed to a three-year contract that could pay the 19-year-old left wing as much as $3.9 million per season, according to sources with knowledge of the contract.
"He's a real building block for this organization, a major injection of talent into this team," McPhee said. "He's an exciting player that the fans are going to enjoy watching. He sets the tone for the entire team with the way he plays."
The Capitals hope Ovechkin will become the centerpiece of the organization's youth movement. Although he has yet to play a game in the NHL, he is arguably the Capitals' best player.
Ovechkin spoke to team officials yesterday via a conference call from Moscow.
"I have spoken to Dainius Zubrus and Alexander Semin," Ovechkin said through an interpreter. "They say Washington is a wonderful city, and there is a great atmosphere around the team. I know the rest is up to me.
"I would like to thank George McPhee and the entire organization for their support. I will work very hard to put the team first always and make the fans happy."
Ovechkin and his parents hope to relocate from Moscow to the Washington area sometime in the next two weeks.
Ovechkin's salary, including signing bonus, will be the rookie maximum of $984,200 per season. But that figure could grow significantly if he reaches several lofty performance bonuses, according to sources.
The incentive bonuses are divided into two structures, Schedule A (worth a total of $850,000 per season) and the more difficult to achieve Schedule B (worth a total of $2 million). Ovechkin is eligible for the maximum in each schedule. The bonuses range from playing time to winning a major award, such as the Hart Trophy, to finishing top 10 in the league in goals, assists or points.
When the Capitals won the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft lottery, there was little doubt whom they would select. Ovechkin is considered one of the best forwards to come along in a generation. But getting him into a Capitals uniform has been anything but easy.
The first obstacle was the lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 NHL season. It forced Ovechkin to remain in the Russian Super League, where he helped Moscow Dynamo to the championship. He had 13 goals and 13 assists in 37 games.
Then, when the lockout appeared to threaten the upcoming season, Ovechkin agreed to a contract with Dynamo's Russian Super League rival, Avangard Omsk.
That deal included an "out" clause that allowed Ovechkin until July 20 to opt of the contract and sign with the Capitals.
Ovechkin did just that, even though the NHL and its players didn't ratify the collective bargaining agreement until two days later.
"Alex is just thrilled," Meehan said. "He can't wait to get to Washington."