The latest update on whether Evgeny Kuznetsov will elect to leave Russia to join the Washington Capitals next season offers the most discouraging picture to date. On Tuesday, the day Kuznetsov became a restricted free agent in the KHL, multiple Russian news outlets reported that the 19-year-old winger intends to stay with Traktor Chelyabinsk for the next two years.
“We have agreed to all terms [with Traktor],” Kuznetsov told Sovietsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov as translated by Dmitry Chesnokov of Yahoo’s Puck Daddy. “And it’s just a matter of signing a new contract. Signing it is just a formality at this point.”
A Capitals spokesman said the organization had no comment on the reports at this time, but if this proves to be Kuznetsov’s intent, it will be a significant blow to the team’s future. Kuznetsov was named the top prospect in the world by The Hockey News this season.
Kuznetsov told Sovietsky Sport that after discussions with his parents, wife and talks with Capitals General Manager George McPhee he came to the conclusion that staying in Russia is the best thing for him.
“It’s tough to say. But firstly I really want to make the Olympics,” Kuznetsov told Sovietsky Sport. “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.”
You can read Sovietsky Sport’s full interview with Kuznetsov over on Puck Daddy.