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Future of Evgeny Kuznetsov: A Question Mark for the Capitals

Evgeny Kuznetsov lands at No. 6 on a new trade bait board, but there are questions about letting the new coach try to get the forward going.

The uncertainty surrounding Evgeny Kuznetsov’s future with the Washington Capitals continues to loom large. Speculation and criticism have surrounded the talented center, raising questions about his effort and commitment to the team. Recently listed in the No. 6 spot on Frank Seravalli’s trade bait list, he writes, “Kuznetsov is among the most intriguing players on the board.”

Kuzetsov, 31, remains in the middle of the drama in Washington as the offseason rolls on following what general manager Brian MacLellan called a disappointing campaign. There have been reports of a trade request — unofficially, of course, as Kuznetsov has denied it — but the team is looking to change around a few pieces, particularly in their top six where Kuznetsov is making $7.8 million per season for two more seasons.

Seravalli writes that Kuzetsov’s off-ice conduct and suspension for cocaine use have been well-documented, casting a shadow over his reputation. Not only that, concerns about his consistency and level of competitiveness have been raised. He’s an undeniably talented and gifted player, but there seems to be an appetite to move on.

Seravalli highlights the fact that Kuznetsov’s name was previously mentioned in trade rumors in 2021, but he responded with an impressive 78 points in 79 games the following season. Still, after another bit of a down year, there could be challenges in finding a trade partner due to his contract and a potential continued decline in production. Moving Kuznetsov would also mean stripping the Capitals’ lineup of a significant veteran presence, potentially leaving Alex Ovechkin without a primary feeder on the power play and a fellow Russia teammate.

Could Spencer Carbery Reinvigorate Kuznetsov?

The Capitals have a new head coach and that could lead to management re-looking at their desire to trade the forward. Carbery is known for his captivating approach, emphasizing the significance of team cohesion and shared goals. He places great importance on every player fully committing and aligning their efforts and getting Kuznetsov to buy in might be a top priority.

Related: Agent Says Kuznetsov “Not Interested in Anything” Playing for Capitals

Carbery’s coaching philosophy revolves around fostering a unified team dynamic. He understands that when players buy into the team’s vision and work together, the chances of achieving success greatly increase. He’s been known to create an environment where players feel valued and motivated to give their best on the ice. A crucial aspect of Carbery’s coaching style is the emphasis on playing with speed.

Evgeny Kuznetsov Washington Capitals NHL
Evgeny Kuznetsov Washington Capitals NHL

In that way, Kuznetsov fits right in. By executing plays at a high tempo and maintaining a fast-paced style of play, the forward could thrive in a system where the team is looking to create scoring opportunities on the rush.

Sammi Silber of The Hockey News quoted Carbery who said:

Carbery’s approach won’t allow for Kuznetsov not to utilize his full skillset and reach his full potential, which is why keeping him around and seeing how he gels with the 41-year-old first-time NHL bench boss could be worth it.

As the Capitals navigate the complexities surrounding Kuznetsov, the team will weigh the potential trade value against the impact on team chemistry and offensive strategies. The coming months will undoubtedly be crucial in determining the path forward for the enigmatic center and the Capitals organization as a whole. Is he more likely to be traded? Or, will the team try to give him a chance to rebound with a new coach behind the bench?

Next: Flyers Open to Offers for Travis Konecny as Real Interest Mounts

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