Let me start off by saying I am not advocating getting rid of Ovechkin. The Caps should not be actively shopping him. He’s by far the best player in franchise history and arguably the most significant figure in Washington Capitals history. Without him, there’s a darn good chance the Caps wouldn’t be in DC.
But this is precisely why trading him might be the right move. Ovechkin has more than earned a chance to decide what he wants. If he wants to stick around for a rebuild, fantastic. You keep Ovechkin. With Ovi, the Caps always have a shot at winning the Stanley Cup. He helps you win games and he puts butts in the seats. Don’t underestimate how important the latter is.
But if he doesn’t (and who can blame him if that’s the case), Ted Leonsis owes it to him to trade him to a contender. Ovechkin desperately wants a Stanley Cup, so it’s understandable why he wouldn’t want to go through a rebuilding process.
Just about any team would be a fit for Ovi. Teams would likely scramble to create cap space if they knew he’s on the market. But because Ovechkin has a no trade clause, he likely blocks a trade to anyone who isn’t a contender.
The best possible fit for Ovi would probably be the Montreal Canadiens. He’s on record saying he’d love to play there one day. Considering the non-stop rumors about Ovechkin going to the Habs before he signed his extension, the feeling is likely mutual from Montreal. The Canadiens are obviously contenders and they might be desperate enough to trade for Ovechkin. Especially if they can’t sign Carey Price to an extension.
So what would the trade look like?
Lehkonen gives the Capitals a very promising wing to build around. Brendan Gallagher is a very underrated wing who, if healthy, can be a very valuable player. He also has a very reasonable cap hit. This is roughly the package I’d demand if I’m trading Ovechkin. A few playoff games and a demotion while injured doesn’t change the fact that he’s still a premier talent. Any trade package for Ovechkin must reflect that.