Kuznetsov and Draisaitl, both RFAs, are headed to Worlds


Two of this year’s leading playoff scorers are headed overseas.

And they’re going with contract talks hanging in the balance.

On Thursday, Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl and Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov — both restricted free agents — confirmed they’re going to the World Hockey Championship to represent Germany and Russia, respectively.

Draisaitl just wrapped his three-year, entry-level deal, and couldn’t have done so in finer fashion. He had a terrific postseason, racking up six goals and 16 points in 13 games. That left him sitting second among all scorers — trailing only Evgeni Malkin — and he was downright brilliant in Edmonton’s seven-game loss to Anaheim, finishing with 13 points.

More: Some big decisions remain for Edmonton

Kuznetsov was among the top-15 playoff scorers, with five goals and 10 points. Seven of those came in Washington’s series defeat to Pittsburgh. He’s coming off his second contract — a two-year deal with a $3 million cap hit — and figures to be in line for a big payday.

As for the teams they’re joining?

Germany, one of the tournament co-hosts, has fared reasonably well through four games. It posted an emotional 2-1 win over the U.S. in the tournament opener, then rebounded from consecutive losses — 7-2 to Sweden, 6-3 to Russia — to beat the Slovaks on Wednesday.

Russia, meanwhile, has been perfect through four games, outscoring opponents by a whopping 21-5 margin.

Kuznetsov isn’t the only noteworthy addition to the Russian roster. Caps teammate Dmitry Orlov is also headed to the Worlds and, like Kuznetsov and Draisaitl, is also a pending RFA.

Edmonton and Washington will be keeping pretty close tabs on this tournament, hopeful they don’t run into a similar situation like Arizona and Tobias Rieder did last year. Rieder, who was a restricted free agent, opted to play for Germany and got hurt early in the tournament.

Rieder did recover in time to play for Team Europe at the World Cup, and signed with the Coyotes just days before the start of the regular season.