With a playoff run cut short, the Washington Capitals will be undergoing some changes over the summer. The Capitals have a handful of restricted and unrestricted free agents on their roster, and GM Brian MacLellan has some tough decisions to make on the future of the roster.
One of the Capitals most notable restricted free agents this summer is Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov, 25, was the Capitals 1st round pick back in 2010, and he will likely be seeking a long-term extension with the club.
Kuznetsov has now played in 261 regular season NHL games. In 2015-16, Kuznetsov set career highs with 20 goals and 77 points. In 2016-17, Kuznetsov’s totals slipped a bit, but he still recorded a respectable 19 goals and 59 points. Kuznetsov’s point totals ranked only behind Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.
Kuznetsov is one of the league’s elite passers. There are not many passes that he cannot make. His playmaking ability, puck control, and vision are top notch. Kuznetsov can also move the puck well on the powerplay.
While Kuznetsov is an elite passer and playmaker, he tends to over-pass at times. If Kuznetsov was a little more selfish with the puck and shot the puck a little bit more, he would probably register closer to 30 goals.
Another knock on his game is in the faceoff dot. Over the past 3 seasons, his faceoff effectiveness has been mediocre. In 2016-17, he was 43.97% effective in the faceoff dot. Nicklas Backstrom and Jay Beagle took more draws than Kuznetsov, but both players were over the 50% mark in the faceoff dot.
David Krejci (BOS) ($7.25m cap hit)
Ryan Kesler (ANA) ($6.875m cap hit)
Logan Couture (SJ) ($6m cap hit)
Brayden Schenn (PHI) ($5.125m cap hit)
The comparable players listed above were chosen based on similar point production and roles within their respective clubs.
Kuznetsov is arbitration eligible and this contract will likely be a battle between both sides. It is highly likely that both sides will agree on something that is between 5-7 years in length.
The Capitals are not known to give out many no-trade or no-move clauses to their players, but this is a contract they might have to do so to keep the price down a bit.
The Capitals would likely like to keep Kuznetsov’s cap hit closer to $5 million to help with their current cap constraints. However, it is likely that this contract will fall somewhere between $5.5 and $6 million. The Capitals will likely not want Kuznetsov to have a cap hit that is any higher if they want to remain a competitive team.
If the Capitals do go to arbitration with Kuznetsov, Kuznetsov will have a strong case for a high-dollar contract. Ideally, both sides will avoid arbitration and will figure out a new contract before that point.
There is still plenty of room for Kuznetsov to grow his game as he continues to reach his prime. Kuznetsov has not hit his full potential as a player, but the risk is worth the reward. Players that can produce 60-70 points in an NHL season are hard to find at times, which makes Kuznetsov a valuable piece to the club.
By: George Foussekis