The Washington Capitals re-signed centre Evgeny Kuznetsov on Sunday to a $62.4 million US, eight-year deal and made room for him by trading Marcus Johansson to the New Jersey Devils.
Kuznetsov will count $7.8 million against the salary cap through 2024-25. That’s a heavy price for a team that will have to make moves to ice a full roster under the $75 million cap next season.
The Capitals cleared $4,58 million by sending Johansson to New Jersey for a 2018 second-round pick that previously belonged to Florida and a 2018 third-round pick that came from Toronto.
The 25-year-old Russian, who was a restricted free agent, is now the second-highest paid player for Washington behind captain Alex Ovechkin. Kuznetsov’s cap hit surpasses Nicklas Backstrom’s $6.7 million, and he’s signed as long as winger T.J. Oshie, who has a new $46 million, eight-year deal.
Caps lose several players in free agency
Kuznetsov had 19 goals and 40 assists for 59 points last season. In 261 NHL games with the Capitals, he has 182 points on 53 goals and 129 assists, and he led the team in points in 2015-16.
“Evgeny is a premier centre in the NHL, and we are pleased that he will remain in Washington for at least the next eight years,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “It is difficult to find a player of his calibre, 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.”
There was no doubt the Capitals would agree to a long-term deal with Kuznetsov, even amid interest from Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League in him and defenceman Dmitry Orlov, who signed for $30.6 million over six years. But the contract puts Washington into a bind.
The Capitals already couldn’t afford to bring back winger Justin Williams and defencemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner. Williams signed a $9 million, two-year deal with Carolina, Alzner a $23.125 million, five-year deal with Montreal and Shattenkirk a $26.6 million, four-year deal with the New York Rangers.