The New York Rangers should avoid Evgeny Kuznetsov this summer

The Washington Capitals fell last night to the Boston Bruins. They are now down 3-1 in their best of seven series. One player that is rumored to be on the move this summer to create cap space is 29 year-old center Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Evgeny Kuznetsov on the trade block?

Rumors continue to swirl that the Capitals may trade Evgeny Kuznetsov. Lost in the aftermath of the Tom Wilson incident and his wrist slap of $5000 for body-slamming Artemi Panarin, was the fact Washington scratched two players before that game. Ilya Samsonov and Kuznetsov were taken out of the lineup for disciplinary reasons.

“We’ve got to work together inside here,” head coach Peter Laviolette answered when asked about the scratch. “There’s got to be rules, there’s got to be boundaries and there’s got to expectations set and you have to be accountable to them.”

Top NHL Insider Pierre LeBrun noted that the Capitals are tired of dealing with Kuznetsov issues. He added they may look to trade him this offseason. He’s not the only one to report that. Elliotte Friedman also cited the Caps are “running out of patience” with him.

Let’s not forget, Kuznetsov was one four players that also included fellow Russians Alex Ovechkin, Dmitry Orlov, and Samsonov to land the Caps a $100,000 fine for breaking COVID protocols. So this frustration has been ongoing for awhile.

In a recent Mailbag article on NBC Sports Washington, J.J. Regan was asked about Kuznetsov. “Whether the team considers [trading him] will largely be dependent on the direction the franchise wants to go,” he replied. “If MacLellan still believes Washington has another kick at the can, then no, I don’t think Kuznetsov gets traded. If it’s a fire sale for a rebuild, then yes.”

evgeny kuznetsov
Mar 20, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) skates with the puck as New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) chases in the third period at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers should avoid Kuznetsov

Earlier this season, I learned that Kuznetsov’s name was listed as one of the potentially high profile centers that could be available via trade this summer. The other was obviously Jack Eichel, along with the possibility of Aleksander Barkov and Evgeni Malkin hitting the market.

While the Rangers have cooled their jets on going after Jack Eichel, pursuing Kuznetsov is not the route I would go. There is no doubt that he is talented. Buyer beware because his stats have been trending downward since he potted 83 points in 79 games during the 2017-18 season. However, Kuznetsov is affordable with 4 years remaining at $7.8 million and a modified no-trade clause.

The concern here for me is locker-room fit. The Blueshirts are a young team with several young Russian stars in the making. Igor Shesterkin (25), Pavel Buchnevich (26), and Vitali Kravtsov (21) come to mind immediately. Artemi Panarin who is 29 years-old himself could likely keep Kuznetsov in check. Just remember, Alex Ovechkin wound up getting into a heap of trouble this season along with Kuznetsov.

Chris Drury has his plate full. He has to hire a new coach, but he also wants to add another center. Before looking at Kuznetsov, I would rule out Sean Monahan in Calgary first. I may even consider a multiple Cup winner like Malkin over him too. Bottom line, if they bring him in Drury needs to be sure that he fits into the culture of what they are building. Or they better have a strong captain in place to keep him in line.

By the way… who will be the next Rangers captain?

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