The Washington Capitals have announced a long-term contract for Evgeny Kuznetsov.
The Capitals have signed Kuznetsov, a restricted free agent, to an eight-year, $62.4 million extension.
As expected, that represents a substantial raise from the two-year deal, with an NHL salary of $3.4 million this past season, that recently expired.
“Evgeny is a premier center in the NHL and we are pleased that he will remain in Washington for at least the next eight years,” said general manager Brian MacLellan in a statement.
“It is difficult to find a player of his caliber, who is in his prime and makes his teammates better. Evgeny plays with a tremendous skill, speed and tenacity needed to win in the NHL.”
Now 25 years old, Kuznetsov’s total production dropped in 2016-17, as he scored 19 goals and 59 points in 82 games. But he has also shown to have a very high ceiling, scoring 20 goals and 77 points the previous campaign — just his second full season in the league.
He did have a strong, productive playoff with 10 points in 13 games, before the Capitals were ousted in the second round by Pittsburgh. Despite losing to the rival Penguins, Kuznetsov had a good series with seven points.
Per CapFriendly, the Capitals now have about $4.65 million in cap space — with about $70.3 million already committed to only 15 players for next season. Andre Burakovsky, a restricted free agent, is still in need of a new deal. The task now falls to MacLellan to try to figure out a way to gain more cap flexibility.
MacLellan, in May, called Alex Ovechkin “a big part of our franchise” but also didn’t completely rule out the possibility of a trade involving the prolific scorer and Capitals star — provided it was a “legitimate hockey deal.” He has four years remaining on his current deal, with a $9.538 million cap hit.