The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta wrote in his latest Summer Trade Watch piece on Friday that the Columbus Blue Jackets, Anaheim Ducks, Seattle Kraken, Florida Panthers, and Montreal Canadiens are interested in trading for Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov.
“The Capitals need to free up some salary cap space and moving Kuznetsov and his $7.8M AAV will help in doing so. Yes, the rumours of his off-ice ordeals through the pandemic have played a factor, as well, but the [Capitals] aren’t going to just give him away. There’s a very good chance he’s wearing a different jersey next season,” Pagnotta said.
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.
By Harrison Brown