In the wake of Evgeny Kuznetsov's four-year suspension by the International Ice Hockey Federation, the National Hockey League has met with Kuznetsov to determine the next course of action, if any. How that discipline or lack thereof will affect the Capitals is a different story.
“At this point, it’s out of our hands, it’s in the National Hockey League’s hands, and we’re gonna, out of respect for the process, we’re gonna allow it to take its course and hope to hear something here soon so we can make some adjustments if need be and otherwise move forward from there," Capitals head coach Todd Reirden said on The Sports Junkies Thursday. "But at this time, it’s been really important for us to help Evgeny as he’s going through some tough times and support him."
General manager Brian MacLellan echoed a similar sentiment during the Capitals' Media Day presser.
“We’ve constantly been trying to help him out through the whole process and try to give as much support as we can," MacLellan said.
The Capitals have offered support to Kuznetsov through constant conversation and “just trying to be a friend and just trying to be supportive for him,” MacLellan said. Additionally, Kuznetsov has voluntarily agreed to help through the NHLPA's counseling and education program, including regular testing.
“I think he’s aware that it’s a big mistake in his mind, and he’s remorse, he knows he made a mistake and he wants to move on from it, he wants to take responsibility for it but also move on," MacLellan said.
Kuznetsov's inconsistent play during the 2019 season caused many to speculate whether the cocaine-usage was related.
“There’s no indication that those two are correlated in my mind. It could have an effect, or other stuff could have an effect on what happened," MacLellan said.
Last season, Kuznetsov had 21 goals and 51 assists, as compared to the 27 goals and 56 assists he had during the 2017-2018 season when the Capitals won the Stanley Cup.
“He’s one of the best players in the league in my mind," MacLellan said. "He’s a big part of our organization, he’s a big part of our team and he was a big part of our Stanley Cup win so he’s an important member for us and we have expectations that he’ll get back to that level and maybe even better going forward.”
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