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With his new five-year deal, Alex Ovechkin sets his sights on Wayne Gretzky’s goal record

Alex Ovechkin has 730 career regular season goals. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
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When it came time for Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin to negotiate his new five-year, $47.5 million deal, he wanted to make sure his family was involved each step of the way. He leaned on his wife, parents and a couple of advisers for advice as he plotted this next phase of his career.

As both Ovechkin and Capitals management had long suggested, the two sides eventually settled on a deal. The length of the contract was negotiated first and then the salary.

Shorter terms had been discussed early in the process, but as Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan noted Thursday during a video news conference, the five-year span was ultimately Ovechkin’s call. Ovechkin, who said he received messages of congratulations from most of his current teammates, also has a no-movement clause on his deal, per CapFriendly.

“He came up with the number,” MacLellan said. “In his mind, that’s as long as he wants to play, for now. He thought, I can play till I’m, what is he going to be, 41 years old? I would imagine that he’s, over in his mind, [thinking] how he could best chase the goal-scoring record.”

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

Breaking Wayne Gretzky’s goal-scoring record often has been brought up when discussing Ovechkin’s future, and the league’s active scoring leader didn’t shy away from the topic on Thursday. When asked whether he thought breaking the record is doable, he said he is “going to try [my] best.”

Ovechkin has 730 regular season goals. Gretzky finished with 894. Ovechkin would need to average 33 goals a year for the next five seasons to break the record.

“That’s why I want to play five more years,” Ovechkin said. “To have a chance to catch the Great One, why not? If I’m going to be second, you know, it’s a pretty good number as well.”

Ovechkin, who will turn 36 in September, scored 24 goals in 45 games in a 2021 season riddled with stops and starts, including a stint on the league’s coronavirus list and a few minor injuries. Ovechkin said his health is now “100 percent,” and he already has started to work out with his trainer in preparation for training camp.

Before last season, the fewest goals Ovechkin had scored was 32, twice, although the latter of those came during the 2012-13 NHL lockout year, when the schedule was shortened to 48 games.

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, who was only slightly involved in these contract negotiations, said the franchise hopes both to win another Stanley Cup and for Ovechkin to surpass Gretzky, calling the pursuit a “joyride of a lifetime for the fans.”

“That’s very motivating for the players, that’s very motivating for the organization and the fan base, and it’s important to the league,” Leonsis said. “You want to be able to have a great team in a big market with a once-in-a-generation player who has a chance to break a record that, to be honest, I thought was unbreakable. As you break that down, 33 goals a year and he’ll stay healthy, it is a doable achievement. It jazzes everybody up.”

Analysis: 5 seasons. 164 goals. Here are Alex Ovechkin’s odds to top Wayne Gretzky’s record.

But, as MacLellan said, there is more the organization needs to do to best help Ovechkin pursue that goal, including surrounding him with a strong-enough supporting cast.

Working to Washington’s advantage is that its veteran core remains intact: Nicklas Backstrom’s contract runs through the 2024-25 season, while John Carlson’s deal runs through 2025-26. But the team will need its other supplemental pieces to continue to grow and develop. Other than bringing back Ovechkin, Washington hasn’t made any splashy moves this offseason, working with a tight salary cap and needing first to complete Ovechkin’s significant deal.

The team still has to sign goaltender Ilya Samsonov to a new contract. He is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Unless more pieces are moved — defenseman Brenden Dillon was traded to Winnipeg on Monday for two second-round draft picks — it appears the Capitals will bring back a similar team from last season. Washington also reacquired netminder Vitek Vanecek from the Seattle Kraken on Wednesday night in exchange for a 2023 second-round pick — one of the picks it received from Winnipeg in the Dillon trade.

“We need to have a good team for [Ovechkin] to accomplish his individual goals,” MacLellan said. “And I think trying to balance out those goals with winning a championship, I think we can do both at that $9.5 [million annual figure] and a five-year term.”

Read more on the Capitals:

A week after losing Vitek Vanecek to Seattle, Capitals reacquire goalie from Kraken

Capitals trade defenseman Brenden Dillon to Jets for two second-round picks

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