Three straight first-round exits in the Stanley Cup playoffs would be reason enough for any team to get introspective. The Washington Capitals, on the heels of a 4-1 series dismantling by the Boston Bruins, have to consider why they've failed to embark on a respectable playoff run since their 2018 Stanley Cup.
Yet general manager Brian MacLellan's dilemma goes beyond recent results. This is not a run-of-the-mill offseason but rather one in which MacLellan needs to stare into the abyss and consider the team's long-term identity.
Captain Alexander Ovechkin is at the end of his 13-year contract signed in 2008 and will turn 36 before the start of next season. Time flies. The Capitals have to ask some uncomfortable questions about the most realistic path, if there is one, for milking one last pursuit of the Cup during the Ovi era.
Nothing is guaranteed until documents are formally signed, but let's cut to the chase: Ovechkin is probably re-signing in Washington. He has expressed his desire to return to the only NHL team he's ever known.
That feeling is definitely mutual. With his electric play and rambunctious personality, Ovechkin has almost single-handedly taken an also-ran Capitals team and turned them into one of the NHL's premier franchises. He's the focal point of leaguewide marketing efforts. He's the team leader and the linchpin in the locker room. He is easily the most important figure in franchise, maybe even D.C. sports, history.