Earlier this month, multiple Russian news outlets reported that highly-touted prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov planned to remain in the KHL for two more years. On Monday, Capitals General Manager George McPhee confirmed that the team does not expect the promising forward join them for the 2012-13 season.
“We’ve talked to the agent. It doesn’t appear that he’s going to make it over for next season,” McPhee said. “He’s a young guy…We understand why he might not want to leave yet. But at some point he’ll want to come to this league. It’s the best league in the world. He’s a heck of a player so when he’s ready to come we’ll be ready for him.”
McPhee said that the Capitals “don’t know” whether the reports of Kuznetsov seeking to remain in Russia for two more years were accurate; simply that he won’t be joining the Capitals next fall.
Kuznetsov, who will turn 20 this coming Sunday, told Sovietsky Sport on May 1 that he is “not ready to go to the NHL right now” and that after conversations with his family he opted to remain in Russia. It’s unclear whether he has signed a contract with Traktor Chelyabinsk yet, but Kuznetsov said then that he had agreed to terms with the KHL team.
It is certainly a disappointing development for the Capitals, especially because it is believed Kuznetsov could step into the NHL immediately – potentially adding offense to a club that could see its second-leading goal scorer, Alexander Semin, depart via free agency.
McPhee had previously expressed concerns that Kuznetsov might develop bad habits in a prolonged stay in the KHL. While McPhee said that is still a worry, he backed off the earlier sentiment and said a late arrival could possibly help Kuznetsov.
“We like him a lot as a player. We think he’s a terrific player, but at the right time,” McPhee said. “As I said, he’s only 20. I think he can take the bad habits out of the game. On the other hand, he’s usually bigger and stronger if they come a little bit later.”
More on the Capitals:
— Q&A: El-Bashir, Carrera at 11 a.m.
— Feinstein: Caps have issues to settle
— Possible replacements for Dale Hunter
— Ovechkin talks about “jealous” situations
— Semin’s return seems unlikely
— Hunter’s exit complicates Caps’ offseason
— Capitals players react to Hunter’s exit