According to The Athletic’s Craig Custance, the likelihood of Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov getting traded in the next few weeks is “high.”
“Kuznetsov’s skill is obvious and he’s been able to transcend public analysis because of it. He’s a gifted puck-carrier and playmaker and that’s allowed him to consistently outperform expectations. From an underlying numbers perspective, last year may have been his best ever with a 53 percent expected goals rate and a stunning 65 percent actual goals rate — both of which were built upon improved defense. That’s generally been the biggest concern with his game and fixing that should go a long way in upping his value. His point pace may have fallen to 58 over a full season, but that looks to be a result of lessened ice time and power play opportunity. If his defensive improvements are legit he can still be an asset and surpass his low projected value in a bigger role but age is also not on his side. Definitely a perplexing player,” Custance wrote.
Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli wrote on June 23 in his trade target piece for the offseason that “The [Capitals] are tired of Kuznetsov’s antics.”
Since setting a career-high 83 points in 79 regular-season games in 2017-18 and leading the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 32 points, the 29-year-old has seen his point-per-game average decline in each of the past three seasons. Kuznetsov’s point-per-game average dropped to 0.95 in 2018-19, 0.83 in 2019-20, and 0.71 this past season.
Meanwhile, Kuznetsov tested positive for cocaine in August 2019, which led to a four-year suspension from the IIHF and a three-game suspension by the NHL. This season, Kuznetsov broke the league’s COVID-19 protocol while playing video games in a hotel room with captain Alex Ovechkin, defenseman Dmitry Orlov, and goaltender Ilya Samsonov on the team’s season-opening road trip in Buffalo. As a result, he was experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and missed eight games. On May 3, the Capitals suspended him and Samsonov for disciplinary reasons and he missed seven games with COVID-19.
Trading Kuznetsov will be tough as he carries a $7.8 million cap hit for four more seasons.
The Capitals have been linked to St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, so perhaps Kuznetsov has been discussed in talks with them.
The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta told Sportsnet’s The People’s Show that Kuznetsov has been linked to the Seattle Kraken with the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft looming this weekend. It is possible that Kuznetsov could be exposed but not likely as the Capitals will lose one of their best trade assets for nothing.
By Harrison Brown