Evgeny Kuznetsov: All Signs Point to Washington

Kuznetsov works out with the Russian National Team.

The last couple of weeks have been pretty crazy for the Caps fans: the late -season, nerve-wracking, but ultimately successful playoff push; the first round series against the Bruins with Thomas-vs-Obama-gate, Karl Alzner waking the bear, Brad Marchand’s impeccable impersonation of Greg Louganis, Nicky Backstrom’s return as Mean Lars — and even some pretty decent hockey at times.

Meanwhile, half a world away, at Team Russia’s training facility Novogorsk, the Caps’ highly touted prospect, Evgeny Kuznetsov, is quietly preparing for his first World Championship tournament (at least when the power doesn’t go out). Kuznetsov found some time to talk to the Dinara Kafiskina of Sportbox.ru about his KHL playoff experience, his chances to make Team Russia’s final roster for the, and… ah, who are we kidding? We know you only care about one thing: Is Kuzya coming to Washington? Sure enough, that very question comes up at the very end of the interview.

Follow us past the jump for our translation and analysis.

Dinara Kafiskina: You have been tortured by this question.  But, nevertheless, are you leaving for the NHL next year or not?

Evgeny Kuznetsov: It was decided a long time ago, but nobody knows anything about it yet. Nothing can be disclosed yet, because I am still under a valid contract.  But I have decided everything for myself.

We have heard similar answers from Kuznetsov for a while now.  But let’s put this latest pronouncement in context of another interview– one by Kuznetsov’s current employer, Traktor’s General Manager Vladimir Krechin, who earlier this week addressed the club’s plans for the next season in his conversation with Chelyabinsk internet portal MediaZavod.ru:

I want to dispel all the various rumors [about Kuznetsov]: if Zhenya stays, it will only be with Traktor. If he leaves, it will only be for the NHL.  The [KHL] regulations exist, and we will not allow him to leave for another KHL club.  He has two options: either Traktor, or NHL.

There are three possible avenues for Kuznetsov to pursue in the offseason:

  1. Stay in Chelyabinsk and re-sign with Traktor.
  2. Have his KHL rights traded by Traktor to another KHL club, presumably in a more glamorous setting like Moscow or Saint Petersburg.
  3. Do the right thing! Come to the Capitals!

Option 2 is seemingly taken off the table by the latest Traktor management statement. Their stated position leaves very little wiggle room: they intend to keep Kuznetsov. While it may appear unwise to let their homegrown star go to the NHL for nothing in return, trading Kuznetsov to a rival could be a disaster from a PR perspective. Traktor fans have indicated they would be more understanding to lose Kuznetsov to the NHL rather than another KHL team.

Here's Kuznetsov in Riga on Thursday. Nice hat! (Photo credit: @plysenkov)

Option 1 is still possible, of course – but if in fact Kuzya decided to re-sign and already has a new deal with Chelyabinsk, saying he cannot disclose the contract’s details makes no sense since his current contract is with the same team. If there is no deal yet, he only weakens his negotiating position.  In fact, in another interview with Pavel Lysenkov of Sovetsky Sport yesterday, Kuznetsov said that no one from Traktor has been in contact with him since his KHL season ended a couple of weeks ago.  Traktor did make a new contract offer to Kuznetsov earlier in the season, but it clearly was not acceptable.   So that decision Zhenya keeps talking about does not seem to be to stay in Chelyabinsk.

As for Option 3… well, that is the most straightforward one, and it fits quite well with “I already made the decision” mantra. Kuznetsov knows what kind of deal he would get with the Capitals (probably the maximum-allowable, three-year, entry-level contract with performance-based incentives).  So, if the decision has truly been made, and the announcement is simply held off until Kuzya’s current contract runs out on April 30th, it has got to be the NHL.

Unless Kuznetsov’s latest answer to the big question is a prank from a naughty teenager, our chances of seeing Kuznetsov rocking the red next year may not be as bleak as they seemed only a few weeks ago.

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  • Guestz

    here’s hoping!

  • Yv

    First time, when I have seen the Traktor GM answer about Kuznetsov I become sure that he will come to Caps. Especially, after it was in the news that he declined 2.7M$ 1-year contract with Traktor before. Plus total taboo in the news about recent visit and talks between GMGM and Kuzya in Moscow have also pointed that if contract was signed the news about it would be announced only after April 30, last day of his Traktor contract.  And Kuz answer that it was decided long time ago make almost sure that it is Caps. That would be great news  for the Caps and their fans!

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    For the record: I’ve been calling this all along. 

    “RUSSIAN AGENT” has always been and will always be the watchword.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bryantpthomas Bryant Thomas

    Man, even Russian gym equipment looks shoddy.

  • http://twitter.com/IgorKleyner Igor Kleyner

    Very worrisome picture!  Squatting only about 200 lb, technique all wrong… The kid must be rescued ASAP! 

  • meowmix

    With him, a nice selection of young netminders, and hopefully getting Semin back, we could have a very nice roster. Also, pick up a tough guy to bring a physical presence in the offseason!

  • http://twitter.com/thiazzi thiazzi

    If a man wants to be called Muchammad Ali, God Dammit this is a free country, you should respect his wishes and call the man Muchammad Ali!

  • http://twitter.com/thiazzi thiazzi

    Fuck, we gotta start listening to you.

  • Reddirtroad19

    He’s doing calf raises…

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    whatever I bet I could beat him at settlers of catan

  • Semin, Orlov, and Ovechkin

    COME TO DC!!!

  • James O

    Hey question tho… if April 30 comes and “knock on wood” the Caps are still in the playoffs… Could Kuznetsov technically join the Caps in the playoffs? Not saying thats a good idea… but I was just curious on your guys’ take.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Don’t think so. Radulov only got in ’cause he had a pre-existing contract.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    Nope. He can sign at any point during the playoffs, but he would not be able to come over until next year. Blame the CBA!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamesioverman James Overman

    ah ok that makes. Hey so idk about you guys but i have been asking myself why Orlov has been replaced by Schultz and now Erskin (praise God hes back I missed having the huge red headed bruser blocking the net and pissing off Lucic, which we were doing a fine job of anyways). I know hes on Hunters crap list, but with the way schultz had been playing and the energy orlov brings, how can you not bring him back?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamesioverman James Overman

    hahahahahahaha… so now I know what we should do before the next caps game. Full expansion settlers battleroyal… I call green.

  • http://twitter.com/IgorKleyner Igor Kleyner

    calf raises, maybe… on a flat surface? Like I said,definitely needs to be rescued ASAP!

  • Breed16

    Did GMGM definitely visit with him in Moscow? Or was that only rumor?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    hey quick question: does anyone know what the living heck this comment means?

  • Didnik

    He’s wearing a shirt that says “Cassius Clay”….

  • Andy Wallace

    Just one more Russian and we could be the Russian 5!

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Chris Gordon

    I blame the CBA for everything — especially if it’s not hockey related.

  • http://twitter.com/FedFedRMNB Feds

    I think he could. Example is Rangers’ Chris Kreider, who played in NCAA before and did not have a contract. BUT. He won’t He will play for team Russia at the Worlds instead.

  • serpent

    A REALLY old shirt! Poor kid needs some new duds,too.

  • DrinkingPartner

    I dunno. It’s a free country… for AMERICANS.

  • Hockey trainer

    He’s doing a modified donkey calf raise which is something performed on flat land to increase the strength in both his tibialis anterior as well as adding resistance for his gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. Over all a good exercise for agility in hockey. It only looks bad cause the rack they are using is archaic. Learn your hockey workouts broski

  • Thrill-hockey

    He’s performing a modified donkey calf raise from the look of it which is great for targeting both gastrocnemius and soleus muscles as well as the tibialis anterior. These are ideal for agility on ice as well as increased output for first 3 steps. The reason it looks worrisome is cause the rack is archaic, but most Olympic lifting facilities look like this.

  • http://profiles.google.com/gamemetro2033ps3 Johann Schumacher

    yeah I really hope he will join soon =) 

  • Steve

    So today is April 30th.  Notwithstanding changes in space/time and other fun stuff that happens when people live far away………should we be expecting news on this tomorrow?