The Washington Capitals have been awaiting the arrival of former first-round draft pick Evgeny Kuznetsov for nearly four years. And even though there have been several indications in recent weeks to suggest that the 21-year-old is finally planning to join them as soon as this spring, they are not making that assumption.
General manager George McPhee said on Thursday that it is "not my expectation" that Kuznetsov will be in Washington's lineup before the end of the season.
“We’re proceeding as if he’s not going to be here,” McPhee said. “Until he’s no longer playing in the KHL there’s probably not a lot that I can comment on there. He’s under contract and playing over there.”
The young Russian, drafted 26th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft, is in the final year of a two-year contract with Traktor Chelyabinsk of the Kontinental Hockey League. Until that contract expires at season's end, a date that could extend into late March or early April depending on Traktor's success in the postseason (the team is in eighth place with four regular-season games remaining), the Capitals cannot sign Kuznetsov.
If and when they do sign their highly regarded prospect, his first contract would be a two-year entry level contract with a maximum base salary of $900,000 per year before factoring in signing and performance bonuses.
Since being drafted, Kuznetsov has taken on a mythical aura of sorts among Washington fans, who hope that his dynamic talent will rejuvenate the franchise. Yet until Kuznetsov is able to don a Capitals sweater, there is not much McPhee can do or say.
“It’s a different kind of game," he said, "and I really can’t comment until it’s over."
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