Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov is starting to like these American holidays. On Memorial Day he and his wife, Nastia, welcomed their first child, Ecenia, into the world. And on Independence Day weekend, he agreed to a two-year, $6 million contract with the Capitals.
“I’m really happy to be here two more years,” Kuznetsov said on Tuesday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, where he plans on spending much of his summer training with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish. “I just want to say thanks to my agent and the Caps organization. I’m looking forward to it.”
Drafted by the Caps in the first round of the 2010 NHL draft and lured from the KHL near the end of the 2013-14 season, Kuznetsov, 23, said he is happy with his decision to leave his home in Chelyabinsk for a chance to play in the NHL.
“It’s the best league in he world right now, right?” he said. “A different life. I’ve been in the KHL and I want to stay here. I don’t know how many more years, but my wife and my family feel comfortable here right now and I do, too. It’s a different world. You always have to try to do something different, right?”
In his first full season in the NHL, Kuznetsov recorded 11 goals and 26 assists in 80 games, but it was in the playoffs where the Russian center reached another level with five goals and two assists in 14 games.
Because of his strong second half of the season and playoff performance, Kuznetsov earned himself the role of second-line center heading into next season.
“I played good hockey but I have to play better,” Kuznetsov said. “I’ll try to focus on my game and what the coach tells me. If everybody does the right job probably something good will happen.”
Kuznetsov said he and the Capitals talked about a longer contract, but they settled on a deal that will keep Kuznetsov a restricted free agent for another two years at the conclusion of this contract.
“It’s always motivation when you have a contract for one or two years,” he said. “A long contract is good, too, but I’ve never been in that situation.”
Kuznetsov said he will spend the remainder of this summer working out with Nemish and learning how to be a father. He said it is his job to wake up with Ecenia in the middle of the night.
“It’s always good when you help your wife,” he said. “You try to wake up at 3 o'clock and 4 o’clock at night, She feels it when I try to help her and that’s how our family is going to be stronger.”
Kuznetsov said his wife’s family has visited with them for the past three weeks and he expects his family to arrive sometime near the start of next season for a chance to hold Ecenia for the first time.
“You always want to fly back home to see your friends and family, but right now I have to stay here and I’m really excited because I found an apartment for next season,” he said. “There’s a playground for our kids, a couple good restaurants. It’s always cool.”
Kuznetsov said his only goal for next season is for the Caps to make the playoffs and extend their post-season run by about a month. He said he watched the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup and wants that same feeling for the Capitals.
“I feel like, that’s it. These guys don’t have to practice again, they’re on vacation,” Kuznetsov said with a laugh. “But you always want to be in the same situation as those guys. It’s a cool road.”