Photo credit: Susan Walsh
Evgeny Kuznetsov was drafted by the Washington Capitals in 2010. It took him four years to come over to North America. He could have left in 2012, but he signed a contract extension to stay with hometown team, Traktor Chelyabinsk. With that decision, it became easy to stereotype him as another Russian who chose the motherland and lots of tax-free money over playing in the best league in the world. But last year, Kuznetsov finally signed with the Capitals. With that contract now up, Kuznetsov, as he has before, tacitly admitted it was a mistake to stay in Russia when he spoke to reporters on breakdown day.
“When I came last year, I don’t understand yet what is this NHL,” Kuznetsov said. “Right now I know what is this.”
“Unbelievable staff and unbelievable trainers,” he continued. “All people, actually you guys too in the media, when came to everyday, your job too. I want to thanks for that. My coaching staff give me a lot this year.”
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) May 15, 2015
While Kuznetsov bounced around the lineup at times, he became a force in the playoffs, tying Alex Ovechkin for the team lead in goals. Kuznetsov scored just 11 goals in 80 regular season games, but he was adjusting to a new position, center, and a new league. Head coach Barry Trotz and other Capitals players have praised him effusively, noting a commitment to constant improvement, especially defensively.
“He’s gonna develop,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “He’s already a top player, I think. He’s a really talented guy. He’s just gonna get better and better.”
Kuznetsov’s future looks bright, but he is not under contract with the Capitals next season. A restricted free agent, Kuznetsov will almost certainly stay in Washington, likely commanding a raise over his current annual salary of $900,000. He may, in fact, get locked up for a long time.
“I talk to my agent and he tell me don’t worry, I got this job,” Kuznetsov said. “I’m ready for any deal. Last three years, I only sign a deal for one year or two year. That’s hard for me and my family. I want to stay in one city, one place and feel comfortable.”
Washington, it seems, is that place. He really likes his local Glory Days Grill.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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