At the end of the NHL season, it had been rumored that the Washington Capitals were looking to make some moves and retool their roster. One of those rumored names is Center Evgeny Kuznetsov. The Capitals and Kuznetsov have had an up-and-down history. Winning the Stanley Cup with the Caps was the peak, and then things began to take a turn, especially when the IIHF suspended Kuznetsov for four years after testing positive for cocaine.
Recently, the Capitals and Kuznetsov relationship hit a new level. Capitals GM Brian MacLellan confirmed that Kuznetsov has made a trade request. Following a down year for Kuznetsov, it’s not a shock he wants a change of scenery. The Capitals are in the midst of a retool or hanging onto success to get Ovechkin past the scoring title.
Kuznetsov is 31 and has two years remaining with a $7.8m AAV. The Capitals have less than $1m in cap space left this offseason which complicates matters. Seeking a “hockey trade” has become increasingly difficult in the NHL flat cap world. Many contending teams are up against the cap and not looking to trade away good players, which provides limited opportunity for MacLellan to move Kuznetsov.
So the question is, who could be interested in adding Kuznetsov?
Potential Trade Partners
The Bruins are currently in the midst of a horrible waiting game. They are waiting on Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to determine their future with the Bruins organization. Obviously, if the two veteran centers walk off into retirement, the Bruins will be in desperate need of some Center help.
Boston has been linked to players like Mark Schiefle and Pierre-Luc Dubois so far this offseason, with Dubois already off the market. Don Sweeney, by all accounts, is still waiting to hear back from his veterans, but could he make a hockey trade to solidify his roster regardless?
Boston wouldn’t be able to take the full contract, but they have plenty of interesting roster options for a hockey trade, specifically the much-rumored Matt Grzelcyk.
The Ducks are in a weird spot, they are currently $8m under the salary cap floor and have 4 RFA’s in Zegras, Terry, Dostal, and Drysdale, which should get them there. With Adam Henrique in the rumor mill last year and in the final season of his contract, he becomes the perfect trade piece for Anaheim this season. Could the Ducks could bring in Kuznetsov and have the freedom to move Henrique at the deadline if warranted?
While the Ducks definitely aren’t in “win now” mode, they could use someone on their team to help change the losing ways. It’s never a positive situation when your young players come in and lose, a lot, for multiple years. At the same time, making himself a good candidate for the trade deadline board next season.
If the Capitals find themselves in a scenario where a hockey trade just won’t work, Anaheim could open itself up as a cap dumping ground…for a price.
The Buffalo Sabres are in the murky middle of the Atlantic Division, everyone around them has added significant firepower, yet the Sabres have mostly stood still. Could this be an opportunity for the Sabres to add some talent to their roster? The Sabres wouldn’t be able to absorb the entire Kuznetsov contract without shipping something back or salary retention.
If the Sabres are looking to make some improvements to their roster, bring in another veteran presence to help shepherd the young Sabres players/prospects into winning hockey.
It definitely feels like Kuznetsov is going to start the season in Washington and see if he can improve his play enough to entice a team to trade for him. Or injuries take their toll on another team, and someone has some LTIR money that burns a hole in their pocket.
It’s clear that Kuznetsov still has enough in the tank to be a difference-maker on a competitive team.