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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evgeny-kuznetsov

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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evgeny-kuznetsov-shoulder

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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happy ovi

Editor’s note: Peter here. We’ve posted two translations in the last week about Alex Ovechkin possibly being wooed back to Dynamo Moscow while still under contract with the Washington Capitals. This idea seems outlandish, but given Ilya Kovalchuk’s recent defection and the vagaries of international hockey regulations, I wanted to get a better handle on the issue. Below is a conversation I had with Fedor Fedin that was educational for me and I hope will be for you as well.

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Dynamo Moscow's Ovechkin and SKA St. Petersburg's Kovalchuk skate during their Kontinental Hockey League game in Moscow

Photo credit: Maxim Shemetov

Last Friday, Dynamo Moscow General Director Andrei Safronov was asked in a fan forum about his team’s interest in bringing Alex Ovechkin back to Russia to play for his home team. “Ovechkin has a current contract with the Capitals,” Safronov said. “Can we try to pull him out? We’ll talk. We’ll look at each other and will have some result.”

That might have seemed at first an unrehearsed response to an informal question, but on Tuesday, Safronov doubled down on his comments in an interview with Sport Express’s Dinara Kafiskina.

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Photo credit: VTBRussia.ru

Friday, during a fan forum, Dynamo Moscow general director Andrey Safronov said that he’d talk to Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin about coming back to Russia. Ovechkin, a Dynamo alum who played for the club until 2005 as well as during the 2012 lockout, is under contract with the Capitals until 2021. The reigning Hart trophy winner is slated to receive $79 million over the next eight seasons.

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evgeny-kuznetsov-team-picture-day1

Way back in early July, Traktor Chelyabinsk published a press release stating that Evgeny Kuznetsov was changing his jersey number to 84 for the upcoming 2013-14 season. Traktor did not say why, and in interviews since the news broke, Kuznetsov has not been asked about it. Russian media, we care about these things!

Meanwhile, Traktor continues to sell Kuznetsov 92 gear in its online store. Without a discount.

On Wednesday we finally got our first look at Kuznetsov wearing his new number (honoring, I assume, me and my birth year) during Traktor’s media day.

A few more photos by the redundantly named Ivan Ivanov are below the jump.

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