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Alex Ovechkin returns to the Capitals, signing a five-year deal to remain in Washington

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is entering his 17th NHL season. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract, the team announced Tuesday, a deal that will keep him in the District through the 2025-26 season.

Ovechkin, who turns 36 in September, had repeatedly expressed his desire to stay with the only NHL team with which he has played, and Washington’s management conveyed the same. The franchise cornerstone is set to begin his 17th NHL season in October.

Ovechkin’s new contract came 13 years after his blockbuster $124 million deal — the first $100 million deal in NHL history. With his team-friendly deal, he is taking a slight decrease in salary: $9.5 million compared to $9.538 million.

Ovechkin negotiated his new deal without an agent, speaking directly with team owner Ted Leonsis and General Manager Brian MacLellan.

“Alex is the face of our franchise and is committed to this organization and this city,” MacLellan said in a statement. “Alex embodies what our franchise is all about, and we’re thrilled that he will continue his career in the Caps uniform for the next five years.”

Washington now has all three of its longest-tenured players — Ovechkin, center Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman John Carlson — under contract through at least the 2024-25 season.

“We’ve seen [Ovechkin] do it year after year,” Backstrom said toward the end of last season of Ovechkin’s on-ice production. “It’s just so impressive. I think the way he shoots the puck, the way he scores, the way he plays the game is just fun to see. As a teammate, you’re just enjoying every moment.”

Said Ovechkin’s teammate T.J. Oshie, “Since I’ve come into the game, when you think of the Washington Capitals you think of Alex Ovechkin.”

Backstrom signed a five-year, $46 million extension in January 2020; that deal runs through the 2024-25 season. Carlson, who is entering his 13th NHL season, can become an unrestricted free agent after the 2025-26 season.

The Capitals open their six-game preseason schedule Sept. 26 at home against the Boston Bruins. Washington’s season opener is Oct. 13 against the New York Rangers at Capital One Arena.

The timing of Ovechkin’s extension was strategic. The Capitals left Ovechkin exposed for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft last week, which meant they could protect another forward. Seattle — which chose goaltender Vitek Vanecek — could have selected Ovechkin but probably would have lost him to the Capitals in free agency, which begins Wednesday.

Washington used a similar method to re-sign Oshie in 2017, when it left him unprotected in the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft but re-signed him a few days later after he went unselected.

Aside from the Ovechkin deal, the only other major move Washington has made ahead of free agency was trading defenseman Brenden Dillon to the Winnipeg Jets for two second-round draft picks Monday.

With Ovechkin’s contract secured, questions turn to the team’s 2021-22 outlook.

Even as he has grown older, Ovechkin has remained one of the most dynamic players in the NHL. His goal-scoring abilities, particularly his signature one-timer on the power play, remain a staple of his game. The physical edge with which he plays, aided by his 6-foot-3, 238-pound frame, has not faded since his debut in 2005. Electrifying arenas year after year, he finally led the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup title in 2018.

He has grown personally in Washington, too; he and his wife are the parents of two sons.

Ovechkin’s on-ice accomplishments continued last season despite a shortened schedule and unusual injury concerns.

Ovechkin led the Capitals with 24 goals in 45 regular season games; he also recorded 18 assists.

Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette said at the end of the season that while Ovechkin wasn’t completely himself because of the NHL’s coronavirus protocols and minor injuries, he believes the captain will get back up to pace this season.

“When you get to become the coach of the team and work with Alex, you see a guy who is a really good person,” Laviolette said. “He’s got a big heart, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to work with him. So I’m looking to having that relationship grow as well.”

Last season, Ovechkin jumped two spots on the NHL’s all-time goals list, moving to sixth with 730 and passing Mike Gartner and Phil Esposito. Ovechkin is one goal from tying Marcel Dionne for fifth all-time. Wayne Gretzky’s record, while daunting, remains in reach at 894.

Ovechkin would break Gretzky’s record if he averages 33 goals per season for the next five years.

Ovechkin’s 2020-21 season got off to a rocky start when he — along with teammates Dmitry Orlov, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov — landed on the NHL’s covid-19 protocols list in January. Ovechkin was off the ice and in quarantine for 10 days. His on-ice production picked up midway through the campaign, and from March 3 to 28, he scored 11 goals in 13 games.

Ovechkin, who has famously rarely been injured, missed 11 games last season, the most in his career — including seven during a stretch in late April and early May. He played in all five of Washington’s Stanley Cup first-round playoff games against the Bruins, posting two goals and two assists. The Capitals lost the series in five games and were bounced in the first round of the postseason for the third straight year.