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Washington Capitals

Avalanche, Predators Among Possible Kuznetsov Trade Spots



Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov
Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) scores against Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) during the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)

The clock appears to be ticking on Evgeny Kuznetsov’s time with the Washington Capitals.

Mere months after rumblings that Kuznetsov asked the team for a trade — a report that he denied — the 30-year-old Russian center is back in the news again for the same reason.

“He’s been wanting to change teams for a long time, he’s tired in Washington,” Sergei Fedotov, a Russian hockey agent and purported friend of Kuznetsov, told earlier this month, according to a DeepL-generated translation.

Kuznetsov is coming off a season in which he tallied 55 points in 81 games — his lowest points per game stat since his first full season in the NHL. 

There are stretches where I thought he played well,” general manager Brian MacLellan said following the regular season, “but overall, I think he underperformed the season he had last year.”

It is not a sure thing that Kuznetsov will be dealt this offseason or at all, but here is a look at some of the teams that could make a run at him if the Capitals make him available.

Colorado Avalanche

Gabriel Landeskog has already been declared out for the entire 2023-24 season. Unlike last year, however, the Avalanche have advance notice to try and replace his production before the season begins.

Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million annual cap hit would be doable for the Avalanche, who have a handful of potential free agents this offseason. Puckpedia estimates the team’s cap space at $13.35 million, which would allow Colorado to take on Kuznetsov and then some.

The downside, however, is that the Avalanche have little to offer. With one of the league’s worst prospec pools, the team has heavily embraced the win-now mentality and traded away all of their second round picks for the next three drafts. They have all of their first-round picks, but Colorado may not have enough to get a deal done that leaves both teams happy.

Carolina Hurricanes

Advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday, the Hurricanes are doing just fine. But, if they can afford it, the rich could definitely get richer.

With Sebastian Aho’s firm grasp on the first-line center spot, Carolina could do much worse than Kuznetsov — who averaged nearly a point per game in 2021-22 — on the second line. Such a move would make 22-year-old Jesperi Kotkaniemi expendable or, at the very least, provide the Hurricanes with added lineup flexibility moving forward.

The Hurricanes will have cap space this offseason as the high-dollar contracts of Max Pacioretty, Jordan Staal and others come off the books, but the team may rather meticulously retool through free agency than take on Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million. Carolina does have the draft picks to get a trade done however, as well as a prospect pool ranked arguably in the top half of the league.

Nashville Predators

Six years removed from the Stanley Cup Final, the Predators have little success to show for it. The team’s nine-season streak of playoff appearances came to an end this year following a fifth-place divisional finish.

Like the Capitals, Nashville is starting to have a bit of an age issue. Roman Josi, Ryan McDonough and Matt Duchene are all on the wrong side of 30, while both Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg will be a year older at the start of the season. They could strike while the iron is hot by acquiring Kuznetsov, hopefully extending the team’s window by a few more years.

The Predators have a deep stockpile of picks in this year’s entry draft, including seven picks in the first three rounds, which would provide them with the flexibility to make a deal. Puckpedia projects the Predators will have just over $13 million in cap space.

Columbus Blue Jackets

There’s no denying that after the free agent addition of Johnny Gaudreau last offseason, a 25-48-9 season was a disappointment, to say the least. But armed with a projected $17 million in cap space, the Blue Jackets could target a handful of additions to complement Gaudreau, Patrik Laine and a smattering of young talent.

In Kuznetsov, Columbus would add not only another veteran presence to a locker room full of early-20-somethings but a true, high-caliber center. Kuznetsov’s 133 points over the last three seasons would be tops among the Blue Jackets’ current centers, providing them with an added threat in the offensive zone.

With six first-round picks over the last three drafts, the Blue Jackets definitely have the prospects to swing a deal. Columbus also has five picks in the first three rounds of June’s draft.

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