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WHN Mailbag: Kuznetsov Trade Speculation, Capitals Prospect Report

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Will the Capitals trade Evgeny Kuznetsov?

Another day, another Washington Capitals mailbag. There are several questions with the expansion draft just a day away, including more on Alex Ovechkin‘s next contract, T.J. Oshie‘s role and Evgeny Kuznetsov trade speculation.

Not only that, but the 2021 NHL Draft could present some intriguing options, and the team’s prospects are preparing for a standout season.

Readers submitted their questions via social media regarding Washington, and I answer them right here while I enjoy a Cherry Coca-Cola. Without further ado, let’s kick things off.

WHN Mailbag

Does Kuznetsov stay? if not, what’s your ideal realistic return for the Capitals? (@replevin7)

As the summer continues, speculation surrounding Kuznetsov continues to brew. He’s one of Sportsnet’s trade candidates this offseason, and per Frank Seravalli, the Capitals are “tired of his antics.” Taking that into consideration, I’m still torn on whether or not Washington chooses to give him a second chance, but I believe the right deal has to present itself for the Capitals to part ways with him.

There were rumors of Washington calling about Vladimir Tarasenko, but that appears unlikely now that St. Louis left him unprotected. Reports indicate that Seattle could select him and move him, but it’s unclear if the Capitals would be a part of that. So, in regards to a return, I’d say a top-6 player and perhaps a promising prospect or high draft pick. Personally, I’d target a high-scoring center rather than a winger, considering dealing Kuznetsov away would leave a major void.

While Lars Eller can play top-6 minutes and McMichael being capable of making the NHL jump (in my opinion), Eller’s struggled injury-wise and McMichael’s development can’t be rushed (I don’t see this being an issue, but you never know what could happen). Plus, Oshie, while capable of playing pivot, shouldn’t be required to be a 3C all the time if he’s not that comfortable at center (with his attitude, though, he’d totally be willing to do so). I don’t have a specific player in mind for a return. But it would have to be a first or second-line asset.

Which player from Hershey is poised to make the Capitals roster? (@plsremainclm)

Martin Fehervary is expected to make the transition to the main roster next season, so I’d expect a breakout year from him. He’s shown tremendous development over time and is training hard this offseason, so he’s my first candidate. I also believe Connor McMichael can make the full-time NHL jump, and considering his skillset and quick transition to the AHL (he led Hershey with 27 points in 33 games last season, I expect him to bring that same energy to the NHL.

Additionally, Beck Malenstyn could be a dark horse for a roster spot. He’s a hard-hitting, solid forward who goes hard to the net and sticks up for his teammates. An Achilles injury sidelined him for 2020-21 and robbed him of a potential spot in D.C. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a strong camp and makes a big push to crack the opening night roster and impress from there.

Who do you most dread the Kraken taking from the Capitals in the expansion draft? (@replevin7)

Heading into the expansion draft, I have to think that the frontrunner to be selected is Justin Schultz. It’s going to hurt losing a player like that. He’s a top-4, puck-moving defenseman and a power-play quarterback that led Washington in primary assists last season. However, I do think Trevor van Riemsdyk will fill in nicely and is capable of impressing in an elevated role.

Losing Vitek Vanecek would also be a tough loss. He’s capable of starting and is going to be a top goalie one day, and I see somewhat of a Philipp Grubauer scenario happening if he does head to Seattle. Considering Schultz’s skill-set, I expect him to head to the Kraken, but it’s possible the Kraken may want another young goaltender in the system.

What role will Oshie play next season with Anthony Mantha and Tom Wilson on the top-6? (@samb999)

I believe Oshie can compete with Wilson for a top-6 role and don’t necessarily see him dropping to the bottom-6. If a Kuznetsov trade does happen, he could potentially slot in as the 3C if need be. He’s a player that can adapt to several roles, but as I mentioned earlier, I don’t think Peter Laviolette would make him play in a position he’s not completely comfortable with for the entire season.

Personally, I see him vying for a top-6 role, and if not, playing on the third-line RW and PP1. Lines do change all the time, so don’t be surprised if those RWs change over time.

What’s the over-under for Ovechkin’s next Capitals contract? (@AllenCaps1995)

If it were me, I’d give the GOAT (yes, GOAT) a blank check. However, the salary cap is a thing, and Washington doesn’t have too much to throw around. If the Capitals do make some moves this offseason to dump salary, and also get the Kraken to take Schultz’s contract, they can make more space.

Ultimately, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his next deal in the $10 million range. He wants to finish his career in D.C., and given his dedication, he could even take a discount. Washington will give him a good amount, though, given his durability and consistency over time. Also, he’s the best goal scorer in the world right now. Pay the man: I predict $10-11 million.

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