Washington Capitals top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov has had a tough time this year. Over the last few months, he’s suffered three injuries. When he’s been healthy, he’s struggled. Traktor Chelyabinsk, which played in the KHL Finals last season, is barely clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Kuznetsov remains out with a leg injury.
In a Russian language interview with Alexander Rogulev of R-Sport, the 21-year-old star said he has ended negotiations with Traktor and reiterated that this will be his last season in the KHL.
“It’s been decided for a long time now, there should be no questions,” Kuznetsov said. “I won’t even stay for $10 or $15 million. The people [in Washington] have been waiting for me for three years.”
Here is the part of the article relevant to Caps fans.
Alexander Rogulev: Do you regret staying a year and a half ago instead of leaving for Washington?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I didn’t know I’d have five injuries in one year…
Alexander Rogulev: Are you still pondering over what to do in the summer? Traktor, undoubtedly, is trying to keep you.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: It’s been decided for a long time now, there should be no questions. I won’t even stay for $10 or $15 million. The people [in Washington] have been waiting for me for three years. They write to me, fly over here. I’m an honest person and will live up to the word I gave them.
Alexander Rogulev: Have you had offers from Traktor?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I have, not once or twice, but all talks come down to me not re-signing here, and this year is the last for me in the KHL.
Alexander Rogulev: Did you decide this a while ago?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I did it at the beginning of the season. But I had little doubt until the New Year… I said in an interview that I will negotiate until the New Year holidays. In the end, there were no reasons to change my mind.
Alexander Rogulev: And that injury…
Evgeny Kuznetsov: Yeah, I need a change of scenery… Even dogs turn away from me on the streets [laughing]. I’m not even talking about people in the stores. It’s very tough.
Alexander Rogulev: Did your family try to convince you to stay in Russia?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: That’s what we’re not talking about at all. I think my parents even want me to play in America. Maybe only my grandma will be sad, she attends every game in Chelyabinsk, doesn’t miss one. But that shouldn’t be the big problem: they all will visit me. But it’s too early to say goodbye, I’m still hoping to play in the KHL playoffs.
Alexander Rogulev: Have you told your future Washington teammate Alexander Ovechkin that you’re coming over to America?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: Me and Sasha are calling back and forth often, but these are personal talks. He asks how did we play all the time. He probably doesn’t know any hockey sites, can’t look up the scores [laughing]. We’ve lost to Neftekhimik. He’ll smile, I won’t.
Here are a few other interesting bits from the interview:
Alexander Rogulev: It’s an unequivocal situation: Valery Nichushkin and Vladimir Tarasenko took a chance going across the pond and now are members of the Olympic team. You stayed and didn’t even get the call for the All-Star Game.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: Talking about the All-Star Game, I would leave it fully to the fans to determine rosters. I’m the only one who is to blame in this situation. I didn’t deserve the call to national team or All-Star Game. When the league decided to take me as an additional player, it was a breath of fresh air for me. But then I went out on the ice, bumped an opponent awkwardly and there’s another trip to Germany…
Alexander Rogulev: Is it fair to say you’ve been weakened by the home scenery – in Chelyabinsk you have your wife, parents, and friends all nearby?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: This is until I go out on the street. When I go, I see how people look at me… a lot of mad people. But I won’t say anything bad about them, I understand them, everyone’s nervous after the games. Everyone’s worried and expect more from me. I have to drop my eyes when I see them.
Alexander Rogulev: Many discuss your tweet which you posted two hours before the KHL deadline. Were there any offers?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I thought Traktor would sign somebody. We don’t even have 25 players on the roster. But no one called me offering anything. Who needs me this year? [laughing] No one would even want me for free the way I’ve been playing.