Rumors and reports of Evgeny Kuznetov’s future have swirled for quite some time. Will he stay in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League or come over to North America to join the Washington Capitals?
Tuesday brought what could be clarity to the situation, as outlets in Russia reported that Kuznetsov has decided to remain in the KHL with Traktor Chelyabinsk for the next two years.
“It’s tough to say. But firstly I really want to make the Olympics,” Kuznetsov told Sovietsky Sport, as translated by Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov. “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.”
Kuznetsov called it a tough decision, but this doesn’t seem like just bluster.
“We have agreed to all terms [with Traktor], and it’s just a matter of signing a new contract,” he told Sovietsky Sport. “Signing it is just a formality at this point.”
Sovietsky Sport first reported Kuznetsov’s comments. Here they are, per RSport.ru, as translated by the popular Caps blog Russian Machine Never Breaks:
“It was a tough decision, I talked to my parents and decided to stay in Chelyabinsk for two more years. The contract hasn’t been signed yet though. I’ve decided right away that I won’t go to any other Russian team. If I did, it would be a VHL [KHL’s minor affiliate league] team.”
The forward said that he made the final decision himself. According to him, contract details have been settled, but the deal hasn’t been signed.
“First of all, I really want to make the Olympic team badly. We have a strong team, I’ll get some experience and will play, said the winger, who also added that the Capitals, who own his rights in North America, have not yet been notified about his decision.”
A Caps spokesman said the organization had no comment at this time. Kuznetov’s North American agent, Jay Grossman, has been silent throughout reports of his client’s future.
Asked about Kuznetsov during a meeting with reporters March 27, McPhee said: “There’s really nothing going on there at this point.”
Kuznetsov was the Caps’ first-round pick in 2010 and was considered the top prospect in the world by The Hockey News.