Evgeny Kuznetsov’s youth is the Capitals’ future

Capitals forward Evgenzy Kuznetsov knows the expectations that come with a $62.4 million deal.

Whatever you do, don’t call Evgeny Kuznetsov old.

“I’m not one of the older guys,” Kuznetsov said. “Come on!”

The 25-year-old Capitals center, drafted as a teen by Washington in 2010, laughed. 

Asked about the development of some of the younger players aiming to make the Capitals’ roster, Kuznetsov maintained that, at his age, he’s still part of the team’s youth movement.

Kuznetsov will have new linemates this season after the Capitals traded away Marcus Johansson to the New Jersey Devils and lost Justin Williams in free agency to the Carolina Hurricanes.

But there are differences — 62.4 million of them, actually — between Kuznetsov and a player like Jakub Vrana, a prospect trying to not only break into the top six but make the Capitals’ roster. Kuznetsov, previously a restricted free agent, signed an eight-year, $62.4 million contract in the offseason — making him an important piece of the Capitals’ future.

With the big new contract, Kuznetsov — who is easygoing and often playful with teammates and the media — faces serious new expectations.

For the deal to happen, the Capitals traded Johansson to clear salary cap space. Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said in July they were essentially forced to choose between the two and they went with Kuznetsov.

Kuznetsov said his contract is about trust, not money.

“They want more from me and I understand that,” he said. “I want people to ask more from me. If they give me a bigger role, I will try to do my best. If you think I’m going to be settled down right now and enjoy the life, no, it’s not who I am. Even if something is not going well, I will be better for sure.”

In four seasons with the Capitals, Kuznetsov has yet to top more than 20 goals in a single year. The Russian had 59 points last season, with 19 goals and 40 assists. As a center, Kuznetsov helps set up other players on the ice.

Kuznetsov, though, was one of the Capitals’ most productive players in the playoffs. He was third on the team in points with five goals, which tied for second most, and five assists.

“I think the key for him is to keep improving, to be at the top of the league in points, to be able to play against the best players in the league, against the best defensemen,” MacLellan said. “All those things, I think he’s able to handle now, responsibility-wise.”

Who will Kuznetsov be paired with this season? Capitals coach Barry Trotz has put Kuznetsov on a line with star Alex Ovechkin and Vrana. The move might not be permanent, but Trotz said he wants to evaluate how Ovechkin plays with Kuznetsov.

The line is somewhat surprising considering Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have a long history of playing together. Still, splitting up stars isn’t uncommon. The Chicago Blackhawks, for instance, use Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on two different lines to create balance on every line.

“My process right now is to get [Kuznetsov and Ovechkin] playing that for a bit here,” Trotz said.

Ovechkin said Kuznetsov signing an extension will make the forward more comfortable.

“When you feel confident, you play much better,” Ovechkin said. “You don’t have to feel about, ‘OK I have to score right now 20 goals or 21 goals and it’s gonna raise my salary.’”

The decision to re-sign with the Capitals wasn’t a slam dunk.

Kuznetsov said he seriously considered offers from the KHL, the Russian hockey league, because of the possibility to play in the Olympics. In April, the NHL announced it would not disrupt the season for the games and players under contract would have to stay put.

Like Ovechkin, Kuznetsov badly wanted to play for his country this winter in the PyeongChang Games. The 25-year-old has yet to compete in the Olympics. He didn’t make the Russian roster in Sochi.

His decision to stay in Washington comes with a commitment to the franchise — something Kuznetsov said he understands.

“I’m not the guy who has to talk with people 1,000 times to understand something,” Kuznetsov said. “I understand that and I will do it, for sure.”

HIDE COMMENTS

blog comments powered by Disqus

Click to Read More

Click to Hide

Top Stories

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) works in the first inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Max Scherzer bounces back from rough start, Nats beat Braves

United States forward Mallory Pugh (2) and forward Julie Ertz (8) celebrate Pugh's goal in the first half of the international friendly match against New Zealand at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (Sam Greene/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)

Alex Morgan scores twice as U.S. women beat New Zealand

Washington Nationals pitching coach Mike Maddux (51) walks to the mound to meet with relief pitcher Oliver Perez (46) during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Friday, July 7, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Final weeks of season are crucial for four Nationals left-handers

Kansas City Royals batterAlex Gordon and Cleveland Indians catcher Roberto Perez watch his fly ball during a baseball game in Cleveland, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Phil Long) **FILE**

Alex Gordon hits MLB’s record-setting 5,694th HR of season

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley, left, is tackled by Washington Redskins safety Montae Nicholson during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Montae Nicholson taking advantage of opening at safety

Washington Redskins' Terrelle Pryor is stopped by Los Angeles Rams' Maurice Alexander the ball during an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Redskins’ Pryor tells Rams’ DB to aim higher on hits

FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2012, file photo, Washington Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss and quarterback Robert Griffin III jump into to each other before an NFL football game against the New York Giants in Landover, Md. Moss, during his weekly radio appearance in Washington, says Griffin took credit for coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan being fired by the Washington Redskins in 2013. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Moss says RG3 would still be playing if he got along better with coaches

Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner (7) celebrates after scoring on a Ryan Zimmerman base hit in the third inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Trea Turner breaks Nationals record for stolen bases

Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson scores past Los Angeles Rams strong safety Maurice Alexander during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

LOVERRO: Thompson’s connection with Cousins goes back to Shanahan

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley, left, is tackled by Washington Redskins safety Montae Nicholson during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Montae Nicholson taking advantage of opening at safety

Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) skates with the puck while Florida Panthers left wing Jonathan Huberdeau (11) defends during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Washington, Sunday, April 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Evgeny Kuznetsov’s youth is the Capitals’ future

Washington Nationals pitching coach Mike Maddux (51) walks to the mound to meet with relief pitcher Oliver Perez (46) during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Friday, July 7, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Final weeks of season are crucial for four Nationals left-handers

Kansas City Royals batterAlex Gordon and Cleveland Indians catcher Roberto Perez watch his fly ball during a baseball game in Cleveland, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Phil Long) **FILE**

Alex Gordon hits MLB’s record-setting 5,694th HR of season

United States forward Mallory Pugh (2) and forward Julie Ertz (8) celebrate Pugh's goal in the first half of the international friendly match against New Zealand at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (Sam Greene/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)

Alex Morgan scores twice as U.S. women beat New Zealand

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) talks with teammates Santana Moss (89) and Josh Morgan (15) during a preseason NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Robert Griffin III blasts Santana Moss: ‘To openly lie about me is a betrayal’

As New Jersey Devils defenseman Will Butcher (8) skate past, Washington Capitals players defensemen John Carlson, left, and Christian Djoos, of Sweden, second left, center Lars Eller (20), of Denmark, celebrate a goal by left wing Nathan Walker, third right, during the first period of a preseason NHL hockey game, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Capitals commit a striking amount of penalties in first preseason game

Washington Redskins inside linebacker Mason Foster(54) celebrates his touchdown with D.J. Swearinger during an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Redskins shoot up power rankings for Week 3

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Nationals-Braves preview: Washington begins last road trip of regular season

This June 15, 2016 photo shows Washington Redskins' safety Su'a Cravens walking from the field during the NFL football teams minicamp at the Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va. Cravens had to be talked out of retiring on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017 during a meeting with team president Bruce Allen, and his future with the team is in doubt. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Su’a Cravens done for season after Redskins’ roster move Monday

Newsletters

  •  Daily
  •  Weekly
  •  Pruden on Politics
  •  Charles Hurt

Find us on Facebook

Find us on Twitter

All site contents © Copyright 2017 The Washington Times, LLC|3600 New York Avenue NE | Washington, DC 20002 |202-636-3000
Share on
Article Evgeny Kuznetsov’s youth is the Capitals’ future compiled by www.washingtontimes.com