If Capitals general manager George McPhee is feeling threatened by Dynamo Moscow’s attempt to lure captain Alex Ovechkin to the KHL, he’s doing a good job of hiding it.
“I don’t deal in hypotheticals or listen much to what goes on over there,” McPhee said Wednesday when asked about his concerns that Ovechkin may someday leave the NHL for the KHL. “That’s a question I’ll probably duck for a long time.”
Last week Dynamo Moscow general director Andrey Safronov told fans that he would try to convince Ovechkin, 27, to return to his former team.
“Can we try to pull him out?” Safronov reportedly said, according to a translation by Russian Machine Never Breaks.” We'll talk, we'll look at each other and will have some result.
“Right now all Russian national team players want to come back to their homeland. KHL shows its force and credibility. And finances are important too. Taking taxes in account, playing in Russia has become way more attractive for players.”
Capitals coach Adam Oates called Safronov’s comments “propaganda,” but said he would address the issue with his captain, especially after seeing Ilya Kovalchuk leave the Devils to sign with the KHL.
“For us, I don’t want it to be a distraction, that’s all,” Oates said. “I’m sure Ovi knows that and it’ll get handled.”
Oates said that with the Winter Olympics being staged in Sochi it’s possible the KHL is simply trying to capitalize on having the limelight.
“Maybe they’re trying to gain some notoriety with their league and some attention,” Oates said. “I’m sure it will be addressed.”
Ovechkin has eight years and $79 million remaining on his contract with the Capitals. Kovalchuk walked away from 12 years and $77 million with the Devils.
McPhee and Oates said they have no reason to think Ovechkin is considering a return to Russia, where he played for Dynamo Moscow during the lockout last season. In fact, Ovechkin is already in New York on a promotional tour for the NHL.
“From Day One, this kid’s always wanted to play over here and I don’t think he wants to go back [and play] anytime soon,” McPhee said. “He wants to win a Cup.”
“I see zero sign to think otherwise,” he said. “He had a great year, a fantastic second half. I think he feels really good about where he is right now and the unfinished business about continuing to take the organization farther down the line.
“Hopefully this doesn’t distract that and it gets solved soon.”