In an interview to Alexey Shevchenko of KHL Fanzone in September, Washington Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov emphasized his eagerness to jump to the NHL after the season’s end yet again. However, he said that a five- to seven-year offer in Russia might get him “thinking.”
It’s tough to blame Kuznetsov for wanting a secure financial future, but there’s one problem: He will never get that type of deal in the KHL. Let’s examine Kuznetsov’s comments from the interview.
Alexey Shevchenko: Evgeny, you were joking about leaving [Russia], right?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I wasn’t joking. I really want to go to the NHL after the end of the season. And I don’t think it’s gonna change.
Alexey Shevchenko: Sergey Zinovyev said in a recent interview with Sport-Express that you’re too emotional. And if someone offers you good conditions tomorrow, you’ll stay.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I saw that. Everyone thinks I’ll leave because of money. It’s absolutely incorrect. I want to play across the pond, feel the level of that league. It’s not about salary.
Alexey Shevchenko: But is there a situation in which you’ll stay?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: There is. If I’ll get offered five- to seven-year-long deal, I’ll think long and hard.
Alexey Shevchenko: You talked about it two years ago.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I’m ready to confirm it again. A long contract guarantees stability. I want to feel confident.
Kuznetsov clearly wants to play in the NHL, but there’s a pragmatic part of him that wants to provide a stable future for his family by cashing in on a long-term deal in Russia. Such a deal would guarantee well-being for the rest of his life– even if an injury would cut his career short.
But a 5-7-year-long deal does not seem realistic. Here’s why.
Long-term contracts are a rarity in the KHL.
Unlike in the NHL, where teams give out long-term contracts like Halloween candy, five-year-or-longer deals are nearly unprecedented in the KHL. Only four players in KHL history have landed such deals: Maxim Afinogenov, Alexey Morozov, Sergey Mozyakin, and Sergey Zinovyev.
Maxim Afinogenov was the biggest star to come to the KHL in 2010. SKA St.Petersburg gave him a six-year contract.
Alexey Morozov signed a five-year contract in 2008 after tying for the KHL point-scoring lead the previous year. Mozyakin signed his five-year pact this year after winning the scoring race. Zinovyev signed his deal with a team who wildly overspent at the time (Salavat Yulaev) to win the championship that season. With all due respect, Kuznetsov doesn’t have half the resume of those players yet, and he isn’t a top five player in the KHL. In the current landscape, it’s very difficult to imagine a team looking to give a player like Kuznetsov an extremely long contract, especially after the player missed nearly two months during the season due to injury.
Evgeny Nabokov and Alexander Radulov were given four-year deals.
Even Ilya Kovalchuk, who recently defected to the KHL, was given only a four-year deal. Four years seems to be the standard contract length for stars in the KHL.
Traktor isn’t the team to give such a deal.
Kuznetsov’s current team, Traktor Chelyabinsk, is far from the KHL’s richest. Traktor is the eighth highest-spending club in the KHL. Unlike teams that gave the long-term deals mentioned above, Traktor isn’t owned by a huge corporation. SKA is owned by gas giant Gazprom, Ak Bars is owned by oil company Tatneft, Metallurg Magnitogorsk is owned by Magnitogorsk Steel Factory, and Salavat Yulaev’s money came from a much richer region: the Republic of Bashkortostan and the Bashneft oil company. The Chelyabinsk club is owned by the Chelyabinsk Region and depends on budget allocation laws so it’s difficult to imagine them investing a lot of money long-term in a player: if a financial crisis hits Russia, the government will cut down on expenses and the team won’t have the money to pay that huge contract.
On the other hand Traktor, rumored to have financial difficulties during the summer in what looked to be a firesale, ended up adding more than $5 million in salaries this past summer, according to the KHL.
If Traktor doesn’t end up re-signing Kuznetsov this spring, it’s almost impossible to imagine him agreeing to an offer sheet from another team in the KHL. That would ruin his following in Chelyabinsk as a hometown hero.
In conclusion, Kuznetsov may really want a long-term deal in Russia or he’s all but set in coming to North America. Regardless, it’s highly unlikely he’ll ever get that contract he’s asking for from Traktor.
Also, consider this. His latest stance may very well be a PR stunt for him to leave his home country without incident or blame.
Here are some more quotes from that same Shevchenko story. Kuzya talks more about coming to the NHL. It seems like he has most of his move already planned out with his family and future teammates.
AS: If you’re going to Washington… Where are you going to live? You’ll earn much less.
EK: I’ll have to get used to the money. But I’ll have no problem with a place to stay and a car. I’ll stay at Alexander Ovechkin’s. He’s got a big house, there’ll be enough place for everyone. We talked about it at the Olympic camp, so I won’t have the everyday problems.
AS: How much does Ovechkin rent a room for? Is it $500? 700?
EK: It’s a secret. But I think you can’t find anything for that money there.
AS: You play hockey on the console. You don’t need to go to the NHL with that thing, right?
EK: I beat everyone there, so I want to try it in person. Try myself out, maybe some tricks.
AS: Will you take [your dog] to America?
EK: Most likely. I want to go with my wife right away. Parents will be coming sometimes.
Maybe we all should be more optimistic about Kuznetsov coming over. And with Traktor currently sitting two points out of the playoffs, Kuzya could be here sooner rather than later.