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Report: Prized Caps prospect Kuznetsov won’t leave Russia for two more years

May 1, 2012, 12:09 PM EDT

kuznetsov 2 Getty Images

Some big news out of the KHL today as Evgeny Kuznetsov — Washington’s first-round pick from the 2010 draft and MVP of the 2012 World Junior Championships — has told reporters he won’t be coming to the NHL for at least two more years.

According to Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov (through SovSport’s Pavel Lysenkov), Kuznetsov has verbally agreed to a two-year extension with Traktor Chelyabinsk, the KHL team he’s spent the last three seasons with.

Here’s part of the conversation between Lysenkov and Kuznetsov:

How can you explain this decision? Everyone thought you would join the Capitals next year.

“It’s tough to say. But firstly I really want to make the Olympics. I think we have a very strong team and I will continue to gain more experience and progress with the team. I am not ready to go to the NHL right now.”

So, this is not a question of money?

“We have agreed to all terms [with Traktor], and it’s just a matter of signing a new contract.  Signing it is just a formality at this point.”

Did the Capitals’ GM talk to you?

“Well, there were some talks but I will keep it personal [what was said]. Again, the decision has been made. I made the decision myself. I want to play in Russia. And everyone else who didn’t love me when the season ended, maybe they’ll be a little quieter now.”

How did the Capitals react to your decision?

“They don’t know about it yet.”

Only 19, Kuznetsov’s considered one of the best players outside the NHL; the Hockey News recently considered him the top prospect in the world.

In light of this news, one would think the big concern for Washington is Kuznetsov staying in Russia — which it shouldn’t be. Several prospects (Evgeni Malkin, Alex Semin, Artem Anisimov etc.) spent time in the RSL/KHL after being drafted and progressed well.

The big concern is the way this situation played itself out.

If the Caps are indeed learning of his decision through SovSport — and based on how the interview went, they are — it doesn’t say much about the relationship between player and team, or Kuznetsov’s respect level for the organization.

Expect this situation to garner a lot of heat in the coming days.

  1. govtminion - May 1, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    George McPhee’s face is the color of a Caps jersey right now, I’d bet. That’s not a good way to find out that your top prospect is giving you the finger.

  2. bloggersarenotjournalists - May 1, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    STUPID GM’s draft Russian players who are still playing in Russia.

    Not worth the hassle or drama they usually create, and only 3 Russians have ever impressed me consistently in the playoffs.
    Bure
    Fedorov
    Konstaninov

    No Malkin, who can disappear for entire series.
    No Ovy who has done the same.

    • wingsdjy - May 1, 2012 at 12:34 PM

      Fedorov was great for a couple seasons, then he just became another prima donna. Good riddance.

      • bloggersarenotjournalists - May 1, 2012 at 2:13 PM

        Fedorov coasted through the regular season after winning the Hart and was one of the best players in the world when playoffs began.

        Clueless are you

    • kantnockdahustle89 - May 1, 2012 at 12:54 PM

      Ovechkin has 56 in 46 for 5 GWG
      Malkin 81 in 68 for 7 GWG

      Not outstanding and I will agree on Malkin (7 GWG pretty nice) but Ovechkin typically is the best player on his team. Both of those players excelled in the first couple of years in the playoffs. Its lately they havent been performing.

      Gonchar is one the best defensemen in the past 15 years and is very good in the playoffs. Zubov as well was always taking his teams deep as a 1D.

      • bloggersarenotjournalists - May 1, 2012 at 2:14 PM

        Totally agree on Zubov, he was excellent in the playoffs

    • lsxphotog - May 1, 2012 at 12:59 PM

      I agree with your 3 players. They were major impact players when it mattered. Bure almost doubled in talent and speed in the playoffs…it was creepy! haha

    • atb4 - May 1, 2012 at 2:30 PM

      Ovechkin has been a consistent playoff performer, I think.
      And while Malkin hasn’t been as consistent as some might like, he kind of, sort of won a Conn Smythe trophy.

      • bloggersarenotjournalists - May 1, 2012 at 2:40 PM

        That was how long ago? And ever since he has shown flashes and totally disappeared. He doesn’t have to even put up points, he just has to show up and play smart team hockey.

        Which he fails to do often, he becomes a petulant child and tries to do everything himself.

        I’ve never seen a Superstar disappear like Malkin has in recent years.

        I mean he isn’t Semin bad, but he has been frustrating to watch.

        Fedorov and Bure never disappeared. If Sergi wasn’t scoring he was back checking the hell out of the other team and being a defensive force.

      • atb4 - May 1, 2012 at 2:49 PM

        You’re not wrong that Malkin’s had some inconsistencies and can be frustrating to watch.
        But he won the Art Ross this year and likely the Hart? Not exactly disappearing.

        I don’t think he was that awful against Philly this year either. Yeah, Couterier’s line certainly held him in check, especially at even strength. But it’s not like he didn’t put up points (not saying a ton in that series, I know) or look dangerous out there.

        Malkin’s career thus far is tarnished by 2 bad seasons (by his standards) back to back.
        Besides that, he’s been at or near the top of the scoring leaders list each year.
        I don’t disagree with the guys you mentioned, but I don’t see why you’re calling out Malkin and Ovechkin.

  3. lsxphotog - May 1, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    It’s players like this that negatively impact the allowance of international play in cooperation with interest in the NHL. The Caps will not be pleased because they want to farm him themselves to control his development. He should not have made any decisions without speaking to the Caps first…very selfish, and it could impact his contract since the Caps have essentially lost their prospect for two more years. To not even discuss anything with the team that controls his contractual rights…not good.

    The Caps should trade his rights to Columbus for Nash and screw him over now. haha jk

    • nydaniel - May 1, 2012 at 12:44 PM

      The Caps don’t own him, they just own his NHL rights. He can play in Russia as long as he wants, or Sweden, or anywhere he wants.
      Perhaps they should have had a discussions before they drafted him, and if they did, this won’t be a surprise.

  4. capsfan19 - May 1, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    WHAAATTT!! This might have ruined my day. Ahhh the words i would love to say right now. What a moron!! Why would you want to stay in that god-forsaken country anyhow????
    Ugh ha had to vent a lil bit

    • ThatGuy - May 1, 2012 at 1:56 PM

      Probably because he makes 3 times as much in the KHL as he can make on an ELC in the NHL. Also, a little it of a news flash for you. Russian’s don’t hate their home country. Not everyone in the world is dieing to live in America.

    • danphipps01 - May 1, 2012 at 1:56 PM

      Because, being Russian, he might actually have a slightly less absurdly judgemental opinion about the country than you, perhaps? I don’t know, I’m pretty sure once you take off the red, white and blue-tinted glasses it’s actually not that bad a place.

      You might want to tell your GM to start drafting elsewhere, though. This “draft all the Russians” strategy doesn’t seem to work for anyone but Detroit.

  5. napoleonblownapart6887 - May 1, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    Probably the wrong place to be asking this question, but does anybody have any information on the relative quality of life outside of hockey that these guys experience in Russia versus what they could expect in the US?

    I know Russia is home to them, and I imagine that the KHL’s elite get paid well, but as someone who is not terribly familiar with Russian culture, I’m just wondering how much “cushier”, so to speak, life is as a 19 year old in Russian hockey star versus what he would expect here.

    With that said, while his actions seem to be fairly immature (especially if this is how the Caps are finding out about this), I don’t necessarily fault the decision. The kid’s 19 and he is being asked to move halfway around the world to a country where he doesn’t speak the language (presumably). If he wants to stay then so be it, but you might not want to jostle your soon-to-be employer like this…

    • danphipps01 - May 1, 2012 at 2:01 PM

      First thing is, the KHL pays better. Surprising, perhaps, but if you’re a “star prospect” (not that it seems to take much to qualify as such over there these days), they’ll pay you very, very well – and with no salary cap, they can usually make offers an NHL club wouldn’t. It’s not like the NHL doesn’t have more money – just that the cap means teams can’t go tossing eight, nine, ten million dollars at one guy as easily. If it’s short-term cash you’re after, the KHL’s pretty attractive.

    • lostpuppysyndrome - May 1, 2012 at 2:46 PM

      Read this and then tell me you’d wanna play hockey in Russia.

      http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/international/article/1111783–khl-gun-slinging-owners-drugs-dodgy-air-travel-all-part-of-the-game

    • claysbar - May 1, 2012 at 3:14 PM

      Read an article in ESPN the mag back during the lockout. They were interviewing Lecavier(?) and he was commenting on the fact that some of the teams over there are rumored to be owned by the mafia. He “jokingly” said that when the coach says we really have to win this game, it takes on a whole new meaning.

  6. tackledummy1505 - May 1, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    Russian hockey is no longer what they think it is. The Red Army was a great TEAM. Those guys played together all the time. Even Ovy called out his Russian team in the last Olympics. Calling the KHL a soft, wussy league. Lol go ahead kid stay in Russia. He can regarded the best player outside the NHL forever. To be the best, you have to play the best.

    • danphipps01 - May 1, 2012 at 2:02 PM

      Yeah, because Ovi’s known as a team player anywhere on Earth. =/

    • bethgoesglobal - May 1, 2012 at 2:02 PM

      You do have to wonder how much better the development is in Russia. Radulov, after jumping ship from the Preds, has now returned and I would say his play has been average at best, and he’s supposed to be a KHL superstar!

      • govtminion - May 1, 2012 at 2:08 PM

        You know, I was thinking something similar while watching Preds/Yotes Game 2. “If this guy is the best player in the KHL, like we keep hearing, I’m sure glad I don’t get stuck watching KHL games!”

  7. thehighcountrybear - May 1, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    With the development of a Russian junior league and with the KHL getting serious footing and financing, you’ll be looking at a reversal of players migrating to the NHL: Looking at comparable money and benefits, looking at playing at home or through countries with cultures infinitely deeper and more interesting than those in North America, looking at being able to avoid the fundamental brutality that hockey in the NHL has evolved into, you can expect to see the continual weakening of the NHL player pool! In fact, you’ll be looking at North American born players happily moving to the KHL…NHL supremacy and NHL as a must destination for developing players is waning and soon to end, book it!

    • tonyromoisterrible - May 1, 2012 at 9:22 PM

      No one born in the US or Canada will up and move to a third world country to eat dog food no matter how much money is promised. Terrible idea.

  8. tonyromoisterrible - May 1, 2012 at 9:20 PM

    Smart draft choice. When he comes over he will be a BEAST!!

  9. thehighcountrybear - May 2, 2012 at 1:34 AM

    Watch the world hockey championship…half the players are from Canada and the US. It’s hard to tear them away once their families get a taste of Europe…hint, Disney World failed in France? Go figure in countries where culture and history are not defined by American commercial television?

    • tackledummy1505 - May 4, 2012 at 11:06 AM

      lol I’ve been overseas, nothing special. It’s like anywhere else you vacation, it’s great for a few months, but after that you want to go back home. The food is better here, the way of life is better here, and there’s one thing the NHL has that the KHL will never have. That’s sponsorship realities there buddy. Nobody from the KHL is going to make more money than what their salary pays. The NHL has all kinds of sponsors and extra money come in. Take the Flyers for instance, local dealerships from BMW and Caddilac employ Flyer players for a commercial. In return they usually get a car or money. What is the KHL going to offer? More fire wood? lol that’s why America is the number 1 place to play in the world. It’s also another reason why players of all sports flock here. That and also because the history of hockey is played on North American soil, not Russia. Good call though lol

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