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Ovechkin faces midnight deadline

No. 1 pick in ’04 draft has ‘very tough decision’ — join Caps or play in Russia
OVECHKIN
Left wing Alexander Ovechkin, taken by the Capitals with the No. 1 pick in the 2004 Entry Draft, has been compared to Thrashers star Ilya Kovalchuk, only with a better all-around game. Kovalchuk is the only other Russian selected with the top overall selection.Karl Deblaker / AP
/ Source: a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/front.htm" linktype="External" resizable="true" status="true" scrollbars="true">The Washington Post</a

Alexander Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals' No. 1 draft pick last year, has until midnight tonight to decide whether he will wear a Capitals uniform next season or play in Russia, his agent, Don Meehan, said yesterday.

"Alex has a very, very tough decision to make," Meehan said by telephone from his Toronto area office.

Ovechkin already has agreed to play for Avangard Omsk of the Russian Super League in 2005-06. But the contract contains an escape clause that allows the 19-year-old left wing until midnight to back out of it and sign with the Capitals.

"He will have to make that decision with his family," Meehan said.

Meehan has not commented on the specifics of Ovechkin's contract with Omsk, except to say that it is worth "nearly three times" what he could make in the NHL next season.

Capitals General Manager George McPhee did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Meantime, the NHL players' association called a news conference for tomorrow in Toronto after a players' ratification vote on a new collective bargaining agreement that would return the NHL to the ice this autumn after a one-year layoff. Commissioner Gary Bettman will attend the players' news conference, the Canadian Press reported.

On Friday, the NHL's Board of Governors is set to vote on the CBA in New York, where the league also has planned an afternoon news conference to announce the deal, rule changes for the new season and the 2005 entry draft order.