Early on Tuesday morning, Admiral, the eighth best team in the KHL’s Eastern Conference, defeated Amur 4-1. Admiral has now qualified for the KHL Playoffs. This also means that Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s Traktor Chelyabinsk, who was the Eastern Conference Champions last season, will miss the playoffs entirely for the first time since 2010-11.
Despite high hopes for this season, Traktor couldn’t quite get it together. Kuznetsov, the hometown star and offensive leader, suffered a shoulder injury that required shoulder surgery on September 6th, just a few games into the season. A few months later, Kuznetsov suffered a freak knee injury that also required surgery.
Traktor will now participate in the Nadezhda Cup, the KHL’s “loser” tournament for teams that don’t make the postseason.
It remains to be seen what Kuznetsov will do next.
Under contract in the KHL until April 30th, Kuznetsov could work out an agreement with Traktor Chelyabinsk management to get out of his deal early to go to the NHL — much like Alex Radulov did with Ufa Salavat Yulaev in 2012. The KHL star recently tweeted out his US visa application and in a “goodbye” interview conducted by the organization (on HCTraktor.org) Kuzya made it clear he was leaving for Washington and indicated that Traktor’s final home game on Tuesday would be difficult for him.
“I don’t think it’s a secret for anybody,” Kuznetsov said last week. “The 4th game of this homestand will be one of my last games here. I want to invite all my friends – I think there will be around 200 people.”
As a goodbye gift to his club, Kuznetsov presented a zamboni to Traktor’s hockey academy after skating with its students. According to Sovetsky Sport, the gift’s value is at least 4 million roubles (approximately $100,000)
Kuznetsov also said that he and his wife will live with Alex Ovechkin when they fly over to North America.
Traktor will play Ak Bars at 8AM. After the game, Kuznetsov will likely say goodbye to his fans and friends. Check RMNB later. We’ll translate any interviews he does with the press.
Сегодня будет очень сложный день…. pic.twitter.com/bJaPAlG8TR
— Evgeny Kuznetsov (@Kuzya92) 4 Март 2014
“Today will be a very difficult day.”