It was confirmed back in July that the 31-year-old requested a trade out of D.C. However one did not materialize and it seems he is staying put for now, so the Caps need him playing at his best.
“We need him, you know, he’s a good player, and we need him to be competitive and our team to be competitive and him playing at his top level,” president of hockey operations and general manager Brian MacLellan said.
After coming off a nearly point per game season in 2021-22, with 78 points (24 goals, 54 assists) in 79 games, Kuznetsov’s production dipped the following season, only racking up 55 points (12 goals, 43 assists) in 81 games.
“I’m not a guy that’s gonna get a big paycheck and be happy every day. Every time I come back home after a bad practice or bad game I’m beating myself,” Kuznetsov said. “I’m not happy about it. Every time I’m walking in the locker room every morning knowing that I’m not performing the way the guys expect, I’m feeling bad about it.”
The 31-year-old middleman was also dealing with a lower-body injury towards the end of the year, but still played through it. He wouldn’t comment on the severity of the injury, but it was clear that it was still bugging him. The Russian countrymen struggled in the skate test and when he came to speak with the media, he walked with a noticeable limp.
“I’m sure he’s going to prove himself from last year because he was hurt as well,” Alex Ovechkin said. “When you hurt and when you can’t play 100%, it’s tough.”
A big storyline for Kuznetsov’s potential revenge tour will be how he meshes with Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery. Based on initial conversations between the two, it appears the style of play that the new bench boss will bring will be a good fit.
“He’s a great person and I feel like the way he sees hockey is a perfect match for me and a perfect match for a lot of guys inside the team,” Kuznetsov said. “He wants to keep the puck in the middle, he wants to control the game and he wants to hold onto the puck. I’m a big fan of that.”
Despite all the noise surrounding him over the summer, Kuzy was still in good spirits at the podium.
“I’m actually in a good spot mentally. I’m taking one day at a time and I’m here today. I’m gonna leave everything I have. And I’m gonna try to help the team to be successful,” Kuznetsov said. “I just want to make sure that every night I’m there with my teammates. Every night I’m good for them and I’m creating some offense right there and it wasn’t there last year.”
By Jacob Cheris