Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin raised his stick to salute the fans at Capital One Arena earlier this month, the final bow in the team’s 2020-21 campaign. The Capitals had lost Game 5 of their Stanley Cup first-round playoff series to Boston and were eliminated. And Ovechkin, the franchise cornerstone, had played his last game under a 13-year, $124 million contract that is set to expire in July.

Ovechkin said this week that he is confident he will re-sign with Washington soon. Capitals management feels the same way.

The sides have had continued talks and are comfortable with the timing. General Manager Brian MacLellan said the team is flexible with how many years Ovechkin wants, but he did not reveal the timeline of negotiations.

“We want him to be happy about this contract,” MacLellan said Wednesday during a video news conference. “We want him to finish his career here. He’s defined our organization, so it’s important for us for him to feel comfortable with what he’s doing, for him to feel comfortable with the contract, for the direction of the team. We don’t want to end the relationship, I guess is the point. We want him to go out the way he wants to go out.”

Ovechkin’s teammates were also confident their longtime leader would stay.

“When you think of the Washington Capitals, you think of Alex Ovechkin,” forward T.J. Oshie said. “So, no, I don’t see it. He’s our captain. … I think Ovi loves it here. I think Ovi wants to stay here forever. I think they want him here forever, so I’m hopeful that something will get done that’s fair for both sides.”

Ovechkin negotiated his 2008 deal with the help of his mother, Tatyana. This time around, Ovechkin is negotiating by himself — as center Nicklas Backstrom did recently. Backstrom, whose extension runs through 2024-25 with a $9.2 million salary cap hit, joked during the season that if Ovechkin needed an agent, he would be happy to assist for the small fee of 0.5 percent. Ovechkin declined.

Ovechkin is speaking directly with MacLellan and team owner Ted Leonsis during negotiations.

“Alex knows that if he plays five more years, 10 more years, whatever it is, we’ve got his back,” Leonsis said recently. “Our commitment to him is to continue to have great teams. We’ll spend to the cap. We’ll try to win championships. And that’s what he’s focused on because that will be his legacy.”

The Capitals could wait until after the Seattle Kraken expansion draft July 21 to sign Ovechkin, who turns 36 in September. Teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender in the expansion draft, or they can protect any combination of eight skaters and one goaltender. The first option is likely for forward-heavy teams such as the Capitals.

If Washington leaves Ovechkin exposed, it could protect another forward. Seattle then could select Ovechkin, but it could then lose him in free agency, which begins a week later. Washington left Oshie unprotected in the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft in 2017 but re-signed him a few days later after he went unselected.

Ovechkin led the team with 24 goals in 45 regular season games; he also recorded 18 assists. His season got off to a rough start when he — along with teammates Dmitry Orlov, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov — landed on the NHL’s covid-19 protocols list in mid-January. Ovechkin was off the ice and in quarantine for 10 days before he returned.

Ovechkin’s on-ice production gradually picked up midway through the season, and from March 3 to 28 he scored 11 goals in 13 games. But between April 24 and May 8, he missed seven of eight games with a leg injury. He played in all five of Washington’s first-round games against the Bruins, posting two goals and two assists.

This season, he missed 11 games, the most of his 16-year NHL career.

“It was a weird year,” Ovechkin said. “But finally it’s a good thing next year is going to be like a regular one and you know exactly what you have to do, how you have to prepare yourself, the body and mentally wise, too.”

He revealed after the season that he also had a back injury during the postseason but was “confident” it did not affect his play. It will not require surgery.

Ovechkin has 730 career goals, which is sixth on the NHL’s all-time list. He is one away from tying Marcel Dionne for fifth and 164 behind Wayne Gretzky’s record.

“You still have chances, man,” Ovechkin said. “You just have to go out there and do your thing, and maybe it happens, maybe not, but ... one step at a time.”

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