NEW YORK, NY – Over the last three months, the saga of Washington Capitals megaprospect Evgeny Kuznetsov has gripped the DC fanbase. With Kuznetsov set to be a free agent at the end of the 2011-12 Kontinental Hockey League season, the hope among many was that the winger would take his talents across the Pacific Ocean to begin his NHL career with the Capitals. With his dazzling skill set, glowing scouting reports, and dominance of international tournaments, the anticipation was high, and for good reason.
However, in early May, Kuznetsov announced that he planned to stay in Russia playing for Traktor Chelyabinsk for the next two seasons. The decision is not yet 100% official because Kuznetsov has not signed his new deal with Traktor yet, but every indication is that he has made up his mind, and is not coming, at least not next season. In mid May, Capitals General Manager George McPhee confirmed as such, saying that it “doesn’t look like” the 20 year-old will be under contract in DC next fall.
The reasons given for Kuznetsov’s disappointing decision varied. The player himself said he was “not ready” to come over and play in the best league in the world, which seems fishy at best considering the way he has torn up the KHL and the World Junior Championships the last two winters. Most NHL prognosticators place his potential rookie scoring output at around 60 points.
Others say that Kutzetsov wants to stay in Russia because the money that he will be able to earn while playing for Traktor will enable him to do what he wants to do: start a family, having been married last summer. This, also, seems to have its fishiness.
There is no doubt that Kuznetsov would be able to make a large sum of money in the KHL, upwards of $5 million a season, and most of it would be tax free. In the NHL, his maximum entry-level deal would have a value of around $9 million under the current collective bargaining agreement. That’s not as much as the KHL, but it’s certainly more than enough money to start a family with.
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