According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, the Washington Capitals could put center Evgeny Kuznetsov on the trade block after this season after the 28-year-old was scratched for Monday’s 5-3 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden and placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list for the second time this season on Tuesday.
“What I’m hearing is that [Kuznetsov’s actions are] starting to at some level irritate some members of the Capitals’ organization. … Washington perhaps [could] be willing to listen to some trade offers on Kuznetsov this offseason,” LeBrun said.
Since leading the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 32 points, Kuznetsov has seen his points-per-game average drop to .947 in 2018-19 to .825 last season and .707 this season.
Kuznetsov will have four seasons left on an eight-year contract that carries a cap hit of $7.8 million after this season.
After testing positive for cocaine that led to a three-game suspension on September 14, 2019, Kuznetsov landed on COVID-19 protocol on January 20 following spending time with teammates in a hotel room in Buffalo (which was against league rules) and missed eight games before finding himself on protocol for a second time on Tuesday.
The Capitals traded forward Jakub Vrana, their second-leading goal-scorer from last season (25), after the 25-year-old struggled to fit into head coach Peter Laviolette’s system as part of a deal to get forward Anthony Mantha from the Detroit Red Wings on April 12, showing that they are not afraid to pull the plug on some players.
GM Brian MacLellan told the media after head coach Todd Reirden was fired on August 23 that they were looking for a replacement who would “press buttons on some players” (including Kuznetsov) but it has not worked out as they hoped for under Laviolette.
Laviolette told the media that it is unknown whether Kuznetsov will play on Wednesday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (7 PM ET, NBC Sports Washington locally, NBCSN nationally).
Kuznetsov’s contract carries a 10-team no-trade list beginning on July 28, complicating a trade. The Capitals may also need to retain salary in such a trade. However, he does not need to be protected from the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.
The Capitals currently have $11,991,667 left in cap space for next season with captain Alex Ovechkin (UFA), goaltender Ilya Samsonov (RFA), and defenseman Zdeno Chara (UFA) in need of new contracts after this season.
By Harrison Brown