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Kuznetsov has found a home: 'I want to stay here'

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Kuznetsov has found a home: 'I want to stay here'

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.”

MORE CAPITALS: Mapping out the Caps' road to arbitration

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.”

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Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

DALLAS — Hours after being named head coach of the New York Islanders on Thursday, Barry Trotz made his first public comments since stepping down in Washington earlier in the week.

And, from the sounds of it, his departure was mostly a business decision.

“Yeah, obviously, I love the D.C. area,” he told reporters on a conference call. “But when it came to the business aspect, from my standpoint, I felt that it wasn’t really sincere [given] what we did together. So I decided that it was better to just move on.”

“I thank the fans,” he added. “I’m glad we could get it done. I said we could get it done in four years, and we did.”

Although the value of his contract with the Islanders has not been publicly disclosed, Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Trotz is set to earn “at least $4 million” per year—or more than twice what he was earning in Washington.

A source told NBC Sports Washington earlier this week that Trotz, who directed the Caps to their first Stanley Cup two weeks ago, sought $5 million per season for five seasons. The five-year term, that source said, was a non-starter as far as the Caps were concerned, given the relatively short shelf life of NHL coaches and the fact that Trotz had already been in Washington for four seasons.

When it became clear that the sides weren’t going to close the considerable gap between their positions, Trotz offered to step down and the resignation was accepted, making the 55-year-old a free agent.

When “I got the [counteroffer], I guess I knew it was time to go in a different direction,” he said.

In New York, Trotz replaces Doug Weight, who was fired earlier this month along with GM Garth Snow. Lou Lamoriello, a longtime NHL executive, took over for Snow and immediately started a search for a new head coach.

Once Trotz became available, it didn’t take Lamoriello to zero in on the NHL's fifth all-time winningest coach. The two met, exchanged ideas and quickly realized that they had found a good fit in one another. Trotz said he's already reached out to the Islanders' star captain, John Tavares, who could become the biggest prize on the free agent market on July 1. 

And, like that, Trotz now is the coach of a Metropolitan Division foe. The Caps and Isles will face off four times next season, beginning with a Nov. 26meeting in New York.

It’ll be weird, for sure. But professional sports is a business. And all sides involved in the Trotz saga were served a painful reminder of that this week.

Asked if he felt wanted in Washington, Trotz said: “Well, I’ll leave that up to the Caps to answer that. I think, absolutely. We just won a cup together and so I don't think that was an issue. I think it was more principle.”

In the end, Trotz wanted to be compensated like one of the top coaches in the game. And now he will, settling in behind big market coaches such as Toronto’s Mike Babcock ($6.25 million per year), Chicago’s Joel Quenneville ($6 million) and Montreal’s Claude Julien ($5 million).

“It’s good to be wanted,” he said. “It happened really quickly because you go from one emotion of winning the cup to the next emotion of leaving the team that you just won the Cup with, and you have to make some quick decisions. I know the timing of it—end of the season, the draft coming up, free agency [and] all that—there was some urgency on that. Both parties knew that, so we went to work at it and got it done.”

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The NHL salary cap numbers are in, what does it mean for the Caps?

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The NHL salary cap numbers are in, what does it mean for the Caps?

The NHL released the salary cap range for the 2018-19 season on Thursday. That sound you hear is the general managers frantically typing numbers into adding machines to figure out which of their players they can afford and which they are going to have to let walk.

The cap ceiling will rise from last year's $75 million all the way up to $79.5 million with the cap floor set at $58.8 million.

So what does this mean for the Capitals?

Here's a look at the team's pending free agents:

Unrestricted free agents: Jay Beagle, John Carlson, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Graovac, Jakub Jerabek, Michal Kempny, Anthony Peluso, Zach Sill, Wayne Simpson

Restricted free agents: Riley Barber, Madison Bowey, Travis Boyd, Adam Carlson, Philipp Grubauer, Tim McGauley, Liam O'Brien, Devante Smith-Pelly, Tom Wilson

We will not know exactly who will make the roster, so to project how much money the Caps will have to work with, let's assume Nathan Walker makes the team and Shane Gersich goes to the AHL. That will give the Caps a little less than $14.8 million with which to work.

Considering the team will need to use about half of that number if not more to re-sign Carlson, that's not a whole lot to work with.

Is $7 million enough to re-sign Beagle, Kempny, Bowey, Smith-Pelly and Wilson? Probably not and that does not even account for prospects who will try to compete for the NHL roster such as Barber and Boyd.

Here's what the cap ceiling tells us:

  • The team's entire offseason will depend on if the team can re-sign Carlson and for how much.
  • Carlson's cap hit last season was just under $4 million. A $4.5 million increase in the salary cap ceiling doesn't mean much when Carlson is going to get a raise of $3 million or more.
  • Grubauer will almost certainly be traded because he is an asset and because there won't be enough money for the team to commit $1.5 million or more to the backup goalie like they did last season.
  • If Carlson returns, fan favorite Beagle has almost certainly played his last game as a Cap. Everyone wants him back, but he would have to take a severe discount for the Caps to fit him and even then, he would be taking away a roster spot from a young prospect ready to make the jump to the NHL.

Free agency opens July 1.

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