Capitals likely happy they didn’t trade Evgeny Kuznetsov this summer

Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals look to continue his strong start when he faces the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.

Kuznetsov had two goals and an assist in Washington’s 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday and has six points in three games. An impressive start for a player that was in the rumor mill since late last season.

Capitals entertained the idea of trading Kuznetsov

The 29 year-old pivot has three more years remaining at $7.8 million AAV with a 15 team no move clause and was rumored to be on the block.

Frustration with Kuznetsov stemmed from an early suspension for violating COVID protocols, to being scratched in the now infamous Tom Wilson – Artemi Panarin incident at MSG for disciplinary reasons.

General Manager Brian MacLellan backtracked that talk this summer. “He’s a good player, we like the player and I don’t know, we’ve never said we’re trading Kuznetsov. I said we’re open to discussions with most of our players for the trade market,” he said. “It’s never been, we are moving Kuznetsov.”

Tarik El-Bashir who covers the team for The Athletic added this; “My gut feeling on the Kuznetsov trade speculation is this: if he were going to be dealt, it probably would have happened by now.”

From trade rumors to Caps top center

capitals not trading kuznetsov now
Nov 9, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) talks with Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) against the Vegas Golden Knights in the second period at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It is very early, but 2021-22 is already shaping up as a bounce-back year for Evgeny. Last season Kuznetsov was inconsistent, finishing with nine goals and 20 assists in 41 games. He was placed in the COVID-19 protocol twice.

Thus far, Kuznetsov resembles the playmaker who averaged a point a game over the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. He’s done a great job with Nicklas Backstrom out with injury.

“The way he’s playing right now is a credit to him, just him,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “He put in the time this summer, he was on the ice all the time, he came to camp in great shape and he started the season the right way.”

The Capitals appeared to be trying to set Kuznetsov up for the hat trick, but he was happy to move the puck along.

“I’m hoping to pass it. I’m not a shooter,” he said. “I was trying to look for something.”

–Field Level Media contributed to this report