Washington is abuzz nowadays with Russian conspiracy talks. Both chambers of Congress and the FBI are looking to see how the Bear’s supposed connection to the White House is undermining the republic. The establishment, as usual, is missing the forest for the trees. There is indeed a Russian scandal in Washington, but it has nothing to do with politics. The fact is the Washington Capitals’ captain, Alex Ovechkin, says he will play for Russia in the 2018 Olympics.

The NHL says neither he nor any other player under contract will play in the games.

In order to play for team Russia, Ovechkin would have to retire. The Caps extended the so-called Great 8’s contract in 2008 making it the first $100 million+ contract in league history. Ovechkin is due $10 million a year through the '20-'21 season. While Ovie has been a spectacular regular season performer, hockey is a team sport.

His teams have never made it out of the second round of the NHL playoffs. Some would say just getting to the postseason is a feat. However, that dog doesn’t hunt in Washington. The Caps have won the NHL’s President’s Trophy each of the past two seasons for best regular season records only to see early playoff exits.

Olympic ban

The league claims the Olympics do not grow the game so there is no reason for its best players to leave during the middle of the season.

Since the NHL contributes heavily to Teams Canada and USA, those teams will probably do whatever the league asks. Several players, like the Caps Ovechkin, Braden Holtby and Nick Backstrom, are nationalists who put country over NHL commitment. This raises legal issues. The Sporting News’ Frank Servalli did a great job at breaking these issues down.

A player leaving his club without permission would be a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The team could fire the player(s) and sue for damages from breach of contract. That lawsuit might cover performance or revenue loss and reach millions of dollars per player.

If teams, i.e. owners, refuse to act, the NHL could fine clubs up to $1 million and revoke draft picks for starters. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman could increase the fine “as much as may be prescribed by any League rule or by-Law.” So if Ted Leonsis, or another owner, allowed three of more players to leave for the PyeongChang Games, it might cost $10 million per player.

Dump Ovie

The best option for NHL players who want to be 2018 Olympians is to retire. The athletes then can play for the national teams. The NHL clubs will retain the rights to the players after the games. Players may be able to renegotiate better deals.

The Ovechkin experiment has not worked in Washington. As great as a performer the Great 8 is, Ovechkin is not the nucleus of a championship team. The Capitals could relieve themselves of the $10 million-a-year contract.

Since the Caps have the contract rights, the team could try a Herschel Walker-type deal with a team that feels it is close to a title shot. Let the new club pay the man.

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