It was a busy offseason for the Capitals last summer. The Capitals had their spring cut short by the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Capitals management had to make some tough decisions when it came to the roster.
One of those decisions came in the form of a contract extension for Evgeny Kuznetsov. On July 2, the Capitals re-signed Kuznetsov to a massive 8-year extension worth $62.4 million. Among the Capitals faithful, Kuznetsov’s new extension received a bit of a mixed reaction.
Fast forward to the 2017-18 season and Capitals fans are seeing Kuznetsov play some of the best hockey of his career. Through 73 games, Kuznetsov has recorded 24 goals, which is a season high. He has also recorded 75 points, just 2 points shy of his season best in 2015-16.
Over his last 5 games, Kuznetsov has recorded 4 goals and 11 points. He even attempted a lacrosse style goal:
A major reason Kuznetsov’s production is up in 2017-18 is that he has had an expanded role on the Capitals powerplay.
With the departure of Marcus Johansson over the summer, Kuznetsov became the new entry-man on the Capitals powerplay setup. Kuznetsov has recorded 27 powerplay points, which is 3rd most among Capitals skaters. Only John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin have more powerplay points than Kuznetsov.
Kuznetsov’s command of the puck and vision has given the Capitals more flexibility on the powerplay.
SCORING AT KEY MOMENTS
Kuznetsov leads all Capitals skaters with 7 game winning goals. In previous seasons, Alex Ovechkin has always been the team leader in this area.
In addition to scoring those big game winners, 6 of Kuznetsov’s 24 goals this year have been on the powerplay.
ELEVATING HIS PLAY AND MAKING OTHERS BETTER
Fans have seen glimpses of Kuznetsov elevating his play and making others around him better. He can take control of a game, and dominate puck possession on shifts.
HE STILL HAS PLENTY OF UPSIDE
Just 25-years old, Kuznetsov is still growing his game and has not hit his full potential. The 2010 1st round pick of the Capitals can still improve his faceoff game, as he is only at 44% effectiveness this season.
In addition to faceoff improvements, Kuznetsov could also shoot the puck a little bit more, especially in the blue paint area.
CONTRACT WELL DONE
It was a major move for the Capitals organization to give Kuznetsov the contract that he received last summer. However, Kuznetsov is showing early on that he is worth every penny of his deal.
If Kuznetsov can remain a point-per-game player throughout this deal, this deal will be a bargain contract. If the salary cap continues to rise every year, the Capitals are in very good shape with Kuznetsov. The deal makes a lot of sense now, and if he keeps at his current pace, will make sense 7 years from now.
By: George Foussekis