It was never a question of if, it was merely a question of how much.
And now we know: Evgeny Kuznetsov, after signing an 8-year, $62.4 million contract extension with the Caps on Sunday night, is among hockey’s highest paid players.
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- Kuznetsov's $7.8 million cap hit is tied for the 16th highest among all players. Rick Nash’s deal also carries a $7.8 million cap hit.
- On the Caps, the average annual value of Kuzy’s new deal ranks second behind only Alex Ovechkin’s $9.538 million. Nicklas Backstrom, the team’s first line center, ranks third at $6.7 million.
- Among all centers, Kuznetsov’s cap hit is the eighth highest behind Jonathan Toews ($10.5 million), Anze Kopitar ($10), Evgeny Malkin ($9.5), Sidney Crosby ($8.7), Steven Stamkos ($8.5), Claude Giroux ($8.275) and Ryan Getzlaf ($8.250).
- At 25, Kuznetsov is the youngest player with a cap hit over $7.5 million.
(All of the above figures are courtesy of CapFriendly.com)
Shortly after signing Kuznetsov, the Caps announced how they plan to shoehorn it all under the $75 million salary cap ceiling: they dealt winger Marcus Johansson (and his $4.583 million cap hit) to the Devils for second and third round picks in next year’s draft.
By subtracting Johansson, the Caps are now about $9 million under the cap with 14 players signed for next season, according to CapFriendly.com, and restricted free agents Andre Burakovsky and Philipp Grubauer still need to be re-signed. So, yeah, GM Brian MacLellan still has some work to do this offseason
MacLellan, by the way, is expected to speak to reporters on Monday morning. So perhaps some answers are forthcoming.
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Early in October, reports began popping up saying Axel Jonsson-Fjallby was headed back to his native Sweden to play for Djurgardens IF in the SHL. Those reports were refuted by the team which said that he remained in Hershey and had no plans to return to Sweden at that time.
Just over a month later and Jonsson-Fjallby’s move back to Sweden is official. On Tuesday, the Capitals announced he had been loaned to Djurgardens IF.
Jonsson-Fjallby scored two goals and three points in 15 games with the Bears.
While Jonsson-Fjallby was technically loaned by the Caps, it seems clear going back to Sweden was his decision. Capitals Outsider quotes a Bears spokesperson saying, “We are obviously disappointed, but it was Axel’s contractual right.”
To be fair, Jonsson-Fjallby was adjusting to a new country. That’s difficult. You do not know what a player’s specific situation is when it comes to family or how he is adjusting to living in a new place. Having said that, this was not a good move in terms of his NHL career.
Adjusting to the North American game takes time. Going back to Sweden to play the European game obviously delays that transition.
Not every player has to go to the AHL to adjust. Evgeny Kuznetsov was talented enough that the Caps were willing to bring him along straight from the KHL to the bottom six in the NHL as he adjusted and developed. Jonsson-Fjallby, however, is not Kuznetsov.
When Jonsson-Fjallby is finally ready to return to North America, he will now have to start the process of adjusting to the North American game again, putting him behind all the players in the system that are there now.
He may feel like it is the right move to return home personally, but in terms of his hockey career, this was a step in the wrong direction.
Other prospect notes:
- Jonas Siegenthaler made his NHL debut on Friday with both Brooks Orpik and John Carlson out with injuries. He was impressive in his first game playing alongside Madison Bowey. He played in his second game on Wednesday which ties him for the franchise lead in games played by a Swiss-born player. He remains with the Caps on their current road trip.
- llya Samsonov started in both of Hershey’s games over the weekend with Vitek Vanecek still out with an upper-body injury. Samsonov won one of those two games bringing his record for the season to 3-5.
- Nathan Walker returned to Hershey after the Caps placed him on waivers. He scored in his very first game back on Saturday against Springfield. He also got into a fight in his second game back on Sunday.
- Riley Barber had no goals in the first six games of the season. Now he has five in the past seven. Over the weekend, Barber recorded a goal and an assist in both of Hershey’s games. He now leads the team in points with 11 and sits third in goals behind Liam O’Brien (7) and Mike Sgarbossa (6).
- Tyler Lewington has racked up 454 career penalty minutes with Hershey, passing Don Cherry who had 424 while with the Bears. He currently sits second in the AHL in penalty minutes with 54. A lot of fans like Lewington because he is not afraid to drop the gloves, but not all of those minutes are from fighting. Lewington also leads the league in minor penalties with 12.
- With his goal Friday in a win over Rensselaer, Chase Priskie became Quinnipiac’s all-time leading scorer among defensemen with 29 goals. “It’s great to be in the record books, but at the same time it’s the players that I’ve been able to play with for the last four years,” Priskie said. “Without them, a lot of those goals don’t happen and I can’t give enough praise to the guys I’ve been able to play with that have been able to get me the puck in the right situations. I’ve been able to do the easy part. I just try to come in and do whatever I can to help the team win.”
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In what was an injury-filled day for the Capitals, the exclamation point of the night on Wednesday was a vicious body slam by Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey to T.J. Oshie.
Late in the game, Oshie skated to the corner of the offensive zone after the puck while locked in a physical battle with Morrissey. Morrissey checked Oshie into the boards, then, as he was falling back, Morrissey slammed Oshie down to the ice. Oshie appeared dazed after the play and now Morrissey may have to answer for the play.
The Department of Player Safety announced Thursday that Morrissey will have a hearing for what it calls interference/unsportsmanlike conduct on Oshie. A date and time for the hearing have not yet been determined.
Chances are, Morrissey is not going to walk away from that hearing unscathed.
The DPS already set precedent for a similar hit earlier in the season when Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson slammed Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson to the ice. Matheson was suspended two games for the play.
Matheson’s suspension was a matter of some debate within the hockey community. Some say Matheson was only finishing his check and the play looked worse than it was because Pettersson is only 176 pounds, nearly 20 pounds lighter than Matheson. Morrissey will not be able to make that argument considering both he and Oshie are listed at 195 pounds by their respective teams.
Also working against Morrissey is the fact that he is a repeat offender after he was suspended in the 2018 playoffs for a cross-check to Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal.
With no practice on Thursday, it is unclear if Oshie has suffered any injury from the play, something else the DPS takes into consideration when determining suspensions. Considering his concussion history, however, seeing him slammed to the ice in the manner he was on Wednesday was a troubling sight.
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