There’s an undeniable possibility the Washington Capitals could see free agents Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov sign in the KHL. But how realistic is it?
The Washington Capitals are going to be seeing some huge changes this offseason. They were a team built to win a Stanley Cup this season and they failed. With this could come some huge changes. The Caps will look different in October because they only have 11 players under contract for the 2017-18 season.
Two players who aren’t under contract are restricted free agents Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov. While the latter hasn’t spoken much about the 2018 Winter Olympics, the former has been very vocal about his desire to play. It’s not a stretch to say Orlov might feel the same way, though perhaps not as passionately as Kuznetsov.
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Unless the NHL changes its policy about not sending players to the Olympics, there aren’t many options for the duo if they desire to play for their country. Occam’s Razor suggests the simplest answer is usually the best one. Following this logic, if they are committed to playing in the 2018 Olympics, signing in the KHL is something they will explore.
Most Russian players won’t have the luxury Orlov and Kuznetsov do. They would have to forfeit their contracts and lose money just like Ilya Kovalchuk did when he left the New Jersey Devils. However, Kuznetsov and Orlov would not have to because as restricted free agents, they technically don’t have contracts.
Neither has expressed a desire to play in the KHL yet, but it’s definitely a possibility. What would most likely happen is Kuznetsov and/or Orlov would sign a one-year deal to play in Europe. This would allow them to play in the 2018 Olympics. The Washington Capitals would still hold their rights in this scenario.
If the Caps want to make sure this scenario doesn’t unfold, the best way to do it would probably be to sign both of them long-term. Kuznetsov likely doesn’t want to move his family back to Russia. His family is a huge part of his life, so it’s very likely he’d be willing to listen if the Capitals want to give him a seven-year or even eight-year contract.
Orlov has emerged as one of the Caps’ best defenseman. Moving forward, he’s a very important part of the team. So signing him to a long-term deal makes sense as well. Orlov is 25, so an eight-year deal would probably make sense. It would only keep him under contract for three years past 30 and one year past the likely start of his decline.
Nothing has been reported suggesting they will leave for the KHL. However, it’s a definite possibility and it’s something Capitals fans should keep an eye on. I’d put the chances of either of the two leaving for the KHL at 10 percent at best. Their respective decisions could have a monumental impact on the Caps offseason and their strategy moving forward.