Summer has heated up around D.C. and so has Evgeny Kuznetsov trade rumors. We dove into the challenges of trading him as well as possible trade destinations for Kuzy. The Washington Capitals roster is frozen for the expansion draft so the earliest a trade could be made is Thursday.
In early May it was reported from both Pierre LeBrun and Elliotte Friedman that the Caps would explore moving on from their top six center this summer. Friedman even went on to say that the team was “running out of patience”.
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Three weeks ago, another big time NHL insider had even more intel about this curious case of Kuzy. Frank Seravalli from the Daily Faceoff, who’s also president of the Professional Writer Hockey Association, wrote this:
"“Simply put, the Caps are tired of Kuznetsov’s antics. From being one of the only NHL players to test positive for Covid-19 twice this season, to his four-year suspension from international hockey after testing positive for cocaine, the time is right for change. Kuznetsov is unquestionably a talented player – see his Conn Smythe-worthy playoff run in 2018 – but an inconsistent one. His contract will be difficult to move, but perhaps less so after the Caps pay his $5 million signing bonus due in July.”"
Last week a report from Craig Custance of The Athletic (subscription required) suggested a likely Kuznetsov trade remains high:
"“Kuznetsov’s skill is obvious and he’s been able to transcend public analysis because of it. He’s a gifted puck-carrier and playmaker and that’s allowed him to consistently outperform expectations. From an underlying numbers perspective, last year may have been his best ever with a 53 percent expected goals rate and a stunning 65 percent actual goals rate — both of which were built upon improved defense. That’s generally been the biggest concern with his game and fixing that should go a long way in upping his value. His point pace may have fallen to 58 over a full season, but that looks to be a result of lessened ice time and power play opportunity. If his defensive improvements are legit he can still be an asset and surpass his low projected value in a bigger role but age is also not on his side. Definitely a perplexing player.”"
The Caps chose to protect Kuznetsov ahead of the Seattle Expansion Draft but that doesn’t mean his future is guaranteed in D.C. The team did this to make sure they don’t lose Kuznetsov to the Kraken for nothing in return except a huge contract to come off the books. Once the expansion draft ends, perhaps General Manager Brian MacLellan will be shopping around.
While Kuznetsov’s defense did improve last season his offense was still inconsistent. He had nine goals and 20 assists for 29 points in 41 games last season while testing positive for COVID twice. Later in the year, Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov were punished by head coach Peter Laviolette for being late to a team function. It was after this news when the trade rumors really began to heat up.