Kuzya and his new gold medal. (Photo credit: argumenti.ru)

While former World Junior Championship teammate Vladimir Tarasenko announced on Saturday that he’d play in the NHL next season, today Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov sealed the deal with Traktor Chelyabinsk, signing a two-year extension which will keep him in Russia until 2013-14.

In a television interview conducted with Evgenia Skroznikova of the local Chelyabinsk TV channel Canal 31 last week, Kuznetsov revealed that it was a very difficult decision for him to make, but one that he had finally found peace with.

“First of all, I did not feel ready to make the move to live [in America], with my parents and wife,” Kuznetsov explained. “Simply, both emotionally and physically I am not ready to play hockey there. I think it will be very good for me to play [in Russia] for another two years. It was pretty much a 50-50 decision. I wanted to go and try myself [in the NHL], but I thought it over, Traktor made me a good offer, so why not stay, play here and bulk up.”

Kuznetsov, who recently turned 20, also has his sights set on the Sochi Olympic games in 2014. “Of course, my main goal is to make it to the Olympics. If I were to go to the NHL – and what if I couldn’t prove myself right away and would be sent to the minor leagues – that would be the end for my Olympic dream. Here – I will have visibility and a chance to prove myself, and to play during Eurotour.”

Throughout the Capitals season, fellow countrymen Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin saw their ice time fluctuate both under coaches Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter. Hunter banished Semin to the press box for several games during the regular season. Both players were given career-low minutes in the playoffs, playing in less heralded roles than they were used to.

Did this have any effect on Kuznetsov’s decision to stay home? “Yes, I was concerned about going to the NHL and ending up sitting on the bench,” Kuzya admitted. “Of course [Capitals management was] telling me it wouldn’t happen – but for them it is a business first and foremost, and I realize that there are millions of locals there just like me.”

After concluding his season with a gold medal in Sweden, Kuznetsov and his wife Nastya, along with friends Georgi and Olya Gelashvili will now get away for a vacation. “I’ll sleep for about four days, then play PS3 for another four days, and then spend a couple of days on the beach.”

When the interviewer asked him about his World Championships win, and his hopes for Olympic gold, Kuznetsov — who wears a Capitals hat some days, has a Caps air freshener in his car, and plays NHL 12 as Washington — made sure she remembered one final goal. “Don’t forget about the Stanley Cup as well!”

Translation by Igor Kleyner.

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  • Disappointed, but i understand! Better late than never!

  • bellka

    Whatever, at this point I do not think I have enough to care… As far as I am concerned, he can stay with Traktor for good.

  • So glad Marcus Johansson has big boy pants….he was 19 when he got here and turned 20 a few days into his rookie year. Johansson had only Nicky Backstrom from his home land here….Kuznetsov would have Ovechkin and Orlov plus #28 if he stays. I call shenanigans….his price isnt going to grow for a rookie deal when he gets here…So if he signs at 22 yr old he will be 25/26 yr old when he gets real money. This isnt a good thing. KHL can keep splashing him with Cash and renewing his deal at a higher dollar amount. SMDH It was cute the 1st two years but now its time to get on
    with it.

  • trade his rights!! he’s scared to make grown men decisions…we do need him!!

  • don’t*

  • Selanne reached NHL at the age of 23.

  • serpent

    Diversity is one hallmark of humanity. Everyone matures at a different rate. If the man says he is not ready, it’s his call. He lives in his body and knows what he feels.

  • Its awfully easy for you guys in DC to put crap on the guy for this decision, but put yourself in his shoes. I live in the UK, and i don’t know that i could uproot and leave everything i’d ever known behind. And i’m assuming the UK is a lot more comparable to the US than Russia ever will be.

    If they’re going to pay him a good wage, why would he move? Unless he actively wants to seek out a new lifestyle, which apparently he doesn’t.

  • You’re setting yourself up for anti-English jokes.

    There are a lot of reasons to leave– but the biggest is this: the NHL is the world’s premiere hockey league. Better competition, larger renown, more spectacle.

    The KHL may pay more, but it also has talent of a lower quality, corruption, and safety problems.

    Obviously that doesn’t factor in friends and family and the Olympics and everything else. I’m just saying that the a priori appeal of the NHL is high.

  • bellka

    Well my friend, I live in DC NOW, but I came from Russia in my early 20s, so I know a thing or two about leaving everything i’d ever known behind and moving to the country less comparable to what I was used to. I confirm -its not easy ;-).
    Team Russia was embarassed in Vancouver pretty badly. I am thinking (and I am hoping) that we will see a different outcome in Sochi. And something tells me that Kuznetsov decision to stay was mostly impacted by his prospects of playing for team Russia in 2014. All this is great, but how does it help me as a Caps fan?