There was some hand wringing in Washington in early June when Evgeni Kuznetsov — the Caps’ first-round pick in 2010 — officially signed a two-year deal with KHL club Traktor Chelyabinsk.
George McPhee was not one of the hand wringers.
The Caps GM wasn’t concerned then, and didn’t seen any more concerned today that the reigning World Junior tournament MVP wouldn’t be playing in Washington until (potentially) 2014.
“It wasn’t much of a surprise,” McPhee told the Washington Times. “We would have liked to have had [Kuznetsov]. But if he’s not ready to come over then it’s probably not a good thing for him to come over because he’s not going to play the way he needs to play.
“But they all come over eventually and if he comes over in a season or two he’ll be more mature, bigger, stronger…he’s a terrific prospect and at some point he’ll play for us.”
One one hand, it’s fair to buy what McPhee’s selling. He’s had past experiences getting draftees out of Russsia and reaping the rewards — Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin, most notably.
On the other, it’s hard to buy that McPhee’s totally cool with this current situation.
Aside from the fact Kuznetsov will spend the next two years not playing in North America (unlike Dmitry Orlov, who cut his teeth with AHL Hershey), there’s also the issue of Kuznetsov’s communication skills — more specifically, his lack of them.
Upon verbally agreeing to the deal with Traktor, he told SovSport’s Pavel Lysenkov he hadn’t informed the Caps he was staying in Russia. There’s no way McPhee was happy about that development.
Regardless, it appears the Caps are prepared to play the waiting game on Kuznetsov and believe they’ll eventually be rewarded for their patience.
“He’s going to come over at some point and he’s going to be a heck of a player here,” McPhee said. “He’ll be worth it.”