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[Editor's note: We're not writing about this topic to invite a debate on Barack Obama's presidency or the politics of Crimea. This article is about hockey. Kind of. It's also about Miley Cyrus.]

In March, Vladimir Putin sent troops into the Crimea. His stated motive was to protect the mostly Russian population there from unrest. A few days later, the Crimean parliament declared independence from Ukraine and asked to join the Russian Federation. Putin then claimed Crimea as part of Russia on moral and material grounds, citing the principle of self-determination and Crimea’s strategic importance for Russia or some ish like that.

Lots of world leaders were pretty pissed about this, judging by the non-binding UN resolution (100 of 193 in favor) that declared Crimea’s Moscow-backed referendum invalid a few days later. Then the United States decided to show just how pissed they were by sanctioning Vladimir Putin and all his boyz.

Those of us who watch the news every night and consider ourselves informed knew all of this already. What we didn’t know is who exactly got sanctioned, why they got sanctioned, and why those sanctions matter to us. Thanks to Jennifer M. Smith (whom we had the pleasure of meeting at RMNB Party 6) and her co-workers at the Stewart & Stewart law firm, we have learned that some of the people sanctioned are deeply involved in the Russian hockey league, the KHL. Russian billionaire Arkady Rotenberg, president of Alex Ovechkin’s former KHL team Dynamo Moscow, has been sanctioned by the United States for being Putin’s former judo partner and a member of his inner circle.

You can’t make this stuff up.

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evgeny-kuznetsov-contract-terminated

This just in: Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov has been released from his KHL contract with Traktor Chelyabinsk. This is another hurdle cleared on his path to Washington.

The Caps have a policy of not discussing players currently under contract to other teams. That no longer applies here. What happens next will be interesting.

The news comes directly from the KHL’s Facebook page.

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evgeny-kuznetsov-zamboni

Photo: @Kuzya92

Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s Traktor Chelyabinsk was eliminated from playoff contention a few hours before their game against Ak Bars on Tuesday. It was still a big game for Kuznetsov, who has been treating it as if it would be his last in Chelyabinsk.

This post contains everything we know so far. We’ll be updating throughout the day.

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traktor-misses-playoffs

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.

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traktor-in-trouble

In KHL action on Saturday, Admiral jumped into the East’s final playoff spot with a 3-1 home win over Metallurg Novokuznetsk. On Sunday, Traktor Chelyabinsk, who still had control of their own destiny with a game in hand, had a chance to leapfrog Admiral if the could beat Torpedo.

They could not.

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Photo: HCTraktor.ru

Now that Washington Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov has made it clear he’s coming to DC, the only question left is when. If his KHL team, Traktor Chelyabinsk, makes the playoffs, his journey to North America will be delayed.

On Friday morning, the picture became more clear as Traktor Chelyabinsk defeated Vityaz Chekhov, 3-2, two days after falling to defending champion Dynamo 5-3. Kuznetsov continued some great play, recording a “secondary” assist on (former Capital) Jan Bulis‘ first period goal. He also recorded two shots on goal and lost all three of his face-offs in 20:55 of ice time — most among any Traktor forward.

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Evgeny Kuznetsov’s Salary is in the KHL’s Top Ten

Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jan Bulis are two of the Traktor’s highest-paid players (Photo credit: Vitaly Gubin/HC Traktor)

Sports.ru has revealed the list of the 90 highest-paid KHL players. Unsurprisingly, Ilya Kovalchuk, who retired from the NHL to sign with SKA St. Petersburg, tops the list at $10.3 million per year (in US dollars). Alexander Radulov, who signed with CSKA Moscow a year ago, holds second place with $7.5 million per season. Sergei Zinovyev is inarguably the worst contract in the KHL. He’s a center in the last season of a five-year deal with Salavat Yulaev whose production has fallen dramatically during that contract, but he still makes $4.7 million per year, third highest in the league.

The list also features a few names that should be familiar to Washington Capitals fans.

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Photo credit: Vitaly Gubin/HC Traktor

Yesterday we had an alarming report out of Chelyabinsk, where it appeared that Washington Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov injured his shoulder for the umpteenth time.

Traktor Chelyabinsk’s head coach Valery Belousov wasn’t very encouraging after the game, saying that Zhenya “hurt his shoulder a little.” Today, however, the news out of Chelyabinsk is a bit more reassuring, as reported by Yuriy Golyshak of Sport-Express and translated below.

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This doesn’t look good.

12:10 Update: Traktor Chelyabinsk head coach Valery Belousov just spoke and gave the media an update on Evgeny Kuznetsov. “He hurt his shoulder a little,” Belousov said. “Let’s wait a little bit and see what the doctors say.”

Washington Capitals 2010 first-round pick Evgeny Kuznetsov left today’s game against Medvescak Zagreb late in the first period after suffering an apparent shoulder injury. Kuznetsov was sandwiched in an open-ice hit by Patrik Bjorkstrand and Hugh Jessiman. Jessiman, who nailed Kuznetsov in the left shoulder from behind, appears to have been the one to injure the Caps prospect. Kuznetsov stayed on the ice for about a minute as the crowd chanted “Kuzya! Kuzya!” before being helped off the ice and running down the tunnel to Traktor’s locker room.

Shoulder injuries have plagued Kuznetsov since his years in junior hockey. The last one forced Kuznetsov to undergo surgery and miss 12 games earlier this season. It was his third shoulder surgery, the second to required visiting specialists outside of the country.

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GIF by welshhockeyfan

Top Washington Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov came into Friday’s game against Yugra on a roll: three goals in his last three games and loads of confidence leading Traktor back in the playoff picture.

Kuznetsov kept up the pace in a 4-3 overtime win for Traktor Chelyabinsk over Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk. And he did it in style.

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