Just a couple of weeks ago, this would have been a silly question to ask:
"Should the Washington Capitals trade Alexander Ovechkin?"
But the Capitals (for the second-straight year), saw a Presidents' Trophy season go to waste as the Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated them in the second round of the playoffs. This was despite Pittsburgh playing without Kris Letang and Trevor Daley plus a banged-up Sidney Crosby. Inexcusable, and the Capitals may have seen their championship window close.
If they decide it's time to rebuild, then there's no sense keeping around a 32-year-old Ovechkin -- regardless of what he's done for the franchise. Washington would be smart to trade him and acquire assets that can help them win next year, in five years and in 10 years. Sportsnet's Elliot Friedman noted that if the Capitals are in fact willing to trade their star player, they'd have no problem finding suitors.
A trade may seem crazy, but it's not unlikely. Here is a look at eight teams that should look to trade for Ovechkin, and seven that should stay away.
15 Want: Dallas Stars
The Stars already have arguably hockey's best scoring tandem in Jamie Benn (2015 scoring champion), and Tyler Seguin -- who has put up 70-plus points through his first four years in Texas.
General manager Jim Nill is one of the most aggressive in the business, and he would easily be one of the top bidders for Ovechkin's services. Could you imagine the Stars crafting a line of Benn-Seguin-Ovechkin? That would easily be the best line of the 21st century.
Dallas also has a solid group of young prospects in the system, so they have the chance to go for a big move. Ovechkin would be a big addition to a Stars team suck in the ultra-difficult Central Division. His 50-goal seasons would definitely return with Seguin as his centre.
14 Stay Away: Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks have put off the inevitable rebuild for too many years -- and no matter what current president Trevor Linden tries to tell you -- this team will always look to go for big guns when they're available.
Vancouver may feel tempted to gut their youth (Bo Horvat, Troy Stecher, Brock Boeser, among others), to get Ovechkin's services. Attendance and TV ratings were down for the Canucks this year, as fans are more than sick and tired of the on-ice mediocrity. Trading for Ovechkin would be more desperate than the stunt they pulled off in 1997 when they signed Mark Messier to a three-year deal.
There are other ways to fill up the seats at Rogers Arena. Trading for a soon-to-be 32-year-old sniper that isn't quite the 50-goal scorer at this point will not make Vancouver a better team. Stick to the youth movement, boys.
13 Want: Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets just accomplished their best season in franchise history, but it was all for naught as the star-powered Pittsburgh Penguins defeated them in five games during the opening round of the playoffs. Columbus had plenty of offence this season, but the likes of Cam Atkinson, Brandon Saad, Nick Foligno, Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner aren't even close to the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.
My point being that the Jackets actually need a true superstar scorer if they want to get over in the brutally tough Metropolitan Division. If they could find a way to trade for Ovechkin, they would absolutely look just as good (if not better) than the Penguins.
Washington may be reluctant to trading away Ovechkin to a division rival, but the Jackets are loaded in young roster players and could give the Capitals the best offer. Ovie would be a great fit on an up-and-coming Jackets team, who have a longer championship window than his current team.
12 Stay Away: Winnipeg Jets
The Jets were one of the NHL's highest-scoring teams in 2016-17, but mediocre defence and horrendous goaltending from Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson contributed to Winnipeg missing the playoffs for a second-straight year.
Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers, Patrik Laine, Bryan Little and Dustin Byfuglien give Winnipeg more than enough offence. Trading for Ovechkin would make their already explosive offence that much better, but The Great Eight isn't going to make their goaltending any better.
Ovechkin doesn't have that many good years left in him, so he's not a great addition to a Winnipeg team whose championship window will be open for the next 10 years. Ovechkin doesn't do much to help Winnipeg in the long term. Plus, they'd have to give up an insane amount of their young talent to get him.
Not worth it. So stay away, Winnipeg.
11 Want: Calgary Flames
The Flames made the playoffs for the second time in three years, but they were swept with ease by the Anaheim Ducks in the opening round of the playoffs. Though 12 different players scored 10-plus goals for Calgary in 2016-17, none of them outside of Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett have 30-40 goal ceiling.
Calgary is in good position to make an aggressive move -- like trading for Ovechkin! They have more than enough young players to carry them to glory, but why not trade for a big gun like Ovechkin?
His size and physical style would also help Calgary compete with tough Pacific Division foes like Anaheim and the San Jose Sharks. The Edmonton Oilers also have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The Flames could have Ovechkin. That would be some hockey to watch.
10 Stay Away: Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs have plenty of salary cap space right now, but that has to be saved up to extend Auston Matthews (who will eventually get at least $10 million a season), Mitch Marner, Connor Brown, William Nylander and others. Furthermore, Toronto is already one of the highest-scoring teams in the league -- therefore they have no reason to trade for Ovechkin.
If Toronto was to trade for him, they would have to give up way too much of their young talent. The Maple Leafs are smart enough at this point to ignore big fish like Ovechkin and stick with the young roster they already have.
With six forwards scoring 50-plus points in 2016-17, Toronto is locked and loaded at forward. There is no need for them to add another scorer in Ovechkin -- no matter how great he is.
9 Want: Minnesota Wild
The Wild were a true Stanley Cup contender up until March, when a miserable end to the regular season led to the St. Louis Blues dismantling them in the opening round of the playoffs. General manager Chuck Fletcher and owner Craig Leopold have expressed their frustrations over the loss (according to the Minnesota Star Tribune), about the ugly exit to their season.
Minnesota can't rely on 33-year-olds Eric Staal and Zach Parise to carry the offence in 2017-18, and adding a big name like Alexander Ovechkin would help their chances of being the last ones standing in the Central Division.
The Wild's window isn't closing just yet, but they probably have 3-5 years left to compete for titles. If they're serious on getting through the constant early playoff eliminations, then they should make a play for Ovechkin.
8 Stay Away: New York Rangers
The Rangers haven't experienced much playoff success since reaching the Stanley Cup in 2014 and winning the Presidents' Trophy in 2015. They have just one playoff series win and it's clear this ageing core doesn't have much left when it comes to competing for championships.
So should the Rangers go for a consistent 50-goal scorer in Alexander Ovechkin? Absolutely not. Offence is far from a problem on New York, as eight guys scored 15-plus goals for them. Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta form a solid goaltending duo, but the defence in front of them didn't do much to help in 2016-17.
If New York wants to delay a rebuild, they need to focus on fixing up that blue line. Adding another goal-scorer in Ovechkin won't do a whole lot to upgrade their championship hopes. And man, imagine how many young roster players (like Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller and Jimmy Vesey), they'd have to give up to land him. Not worth it.
7 Want: Los Angeles Kings
As I wrote in this piece, the Los Angeles Kings are in a bad position right now. Recently fired general manager Dean Lombardi has left his successor (Rob Blake), a ton of toxic contracts -- including Marian Gaborik, Dustin Brown, Alec Martinez, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick. These are mainly immovable deals, so the Kings can't really rebuild with all these ageing veterans on the roster.
But Los Angeles also has arguably the worst prospect pool, with no young up-and-coming players around. As such, their best option may be to try and stay aggressive in the offseason and create one or two more years in their window of opportunity.
Trading for a flashy sniper like Ovechkin would help, given how they don't have any reliable scorers outside of Jeff Carter. Ovechkin would instantly fix their offensive woes and he could be the final piece in helping Los Angeles add one more title with this core.
6 Stay Away: Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks may be feeling the need to make a big move following their shocking first-round sweep via the Nashville Predators, but there is no need to panic. Not only should they just stay with the current roster they have -- but they shouldn't even think about trading for a guy like Alexander Ovechkin.
A lineup that consists of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford is good enough to win titles. Chicago also has very little salary cap space, so trading Ovechkin would mean they'd have to give up a couple of those core players.
It's just not worth the risk for Chicago. They have no reason to trade for Ovechkin and would have to sacrifice a ton of their stacked roster just to get him.
5 Want: New York Islanders
The Islanders have yet to give John Tavares a true superstar winger to work with. His best linemate would be that of Kyle Okposo (now on the Buffalo Sabres), whose career high in goals is 27. That's pretty good and all, but imagine if Tavares got to work with the best goal-scorer of this century in Alexander Ovechkin.
New York barely missed the playoffs in 2017 and is just a year removed from being in the second round of the postseason. They have plenty of young roster players to get excited about, but some of them could be used in a trade to acquire Ovechkin.
If Tavares and Ovie were on the same line, then Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel can forget about being the best scoring duo in the Eastern Conference. Ovechkin would take the Isles from playoff hopeful to Stanley Cup contender. He's a perfect fit there should a trade somehow take place.
4 Stay Away: Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin together? It'd be like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant playing on the same team. Or Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron in the same lineup together. But dream on, kids. If Alexander Ovechkin were to come to Pittsburgh, they'd have to trade away Evgeni Malkin and other big pieces for his services. Ovie for Malkin one-for-one wouldn't be enough.
And does Pittsburgh even need more scoring? They were the NHL's highest-scoring team in 2016-17 -- averaging 3.39 goals per game. With Crosby, Kessel, Malkin, Conor Sheary and Patric Hornqvist in the fold, Pittsburgh has more than enough scoring to win championships.
Do you really believe Washington would trade their franchise player to their arch-rivals? Or that Pittsburgh would trade for their number one enemy? Not a chance.
3 Want: San Jose Sharks
The Sharks Stanley Cup window was already closing heading into 2016-17. But having franchise cornerstones Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton (both pending 38-year-olds), set to become free agents doesn't do a lot to help their chances of winning it all. If San Jose decides to let both veterans go, then general manager Doug Wilson will have to find a way to replace the holes left on offence.
Well, trading for Ovechkin would totally extend their championship window. Ovechkin would be a great fit for a Sharks team that has both great speed and good size. Their time to win a championship with this core is in the next three years.
Ovechkin would bring plenty of more scoring to a group that already has Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns and Logan Couture. He'd easily make San Jose a team to beat in the Western Conference.
2 Stay Away: Edmonton Oilers
Scoring champion Connor McDavid plus Leon Draisaitl, Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Mark Letestu? Yep, the Oilers have one of the best scoring units in the NHL, and trading for Alexander Ovechkin just isn't necessary.
Yes, they should have beaten the Anaheim Ducks in the second round of the playoffs, but all young teams need to experience some playoff losses before they can worry about a Stanley Cup. This Edmonton team has more than enough talent to win multiple championships -- it's just going to take time.
Trading for Ovechkin would mean trading away at least three of their best roster players. The Oilers don't need Ovechkin nor would he do much to help them compete for titles in three years (when he'll be in his mid-30s). They have to stay content with what they have and avoid making a big move for Ovechkin.
1 Want: Montreal Canadiens
What happened last time the Canadiens acquired a Russian superstar who also happened to be a winger? Well just this year, Alexander Radulov scored 18 goals and 54 points -- helping the Canadiens win the Atlantic Division. But the Habs first-round exit via the New York Rangers had nothing to do with Carey Price or the defensive play -- but rather the lack of scoring punch up front.
Radulov may not even be back though (he's an unrestricted free agent), and sniper Max Pacioretty needs some support. The Habs could use another 30-40 goal scorer to maximize their championship window of opportunity, and Ovechkin could be that guy.
If the Habs want to win now while Carey Price is their goalie, then making a move for Ovechkin would bring guaranteed results. Let's see if general manager Marc Bergevin can make it happen...