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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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Newest Caps defenseman Radko Gudas happy for a fresh start in D.C.

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Newest Caps defenseman Radko Gudas happy for a fresh start in D.C.

Radko Gudas was surprised, but also relieved. A different year in Philadelphia, where everything seemed to go wrong for the Flyers, is behind him now. He plays for the Capitals now. 

 

“I was a little bit shocked to be honest,” Gudas said in a conference call on Tuesday. “But when I heard where I'm going, I was pretty happy that I got traded to a team that's well known for their winning and their will to win every game they play.”

 

It capped a whirlwind few days for the 29-year-old, a polarizing figure in the sport along the lines of Washington forward Tom Wilson. Gudas has been suspended four times by the NHL Department of Player Safety. To say he plays the game on the edge is an understatement.

 

“Staying on right line of suspensions: It's always tough lately in the hockey these last few years,” Gudas said. “I worked on it in the summer and I thought I adjusted the game enough to still be able to play physical, just not be a liability out there for my team. It's always something hard to adjust, but we still have to do it. It's our job.”

 

In the midst of a rough year for Philadelphia that saw a coach firing and a late playoff surge fall short, Gudas took advantage of increased ice time – and cut his penalty minutes to 63 from a high of 116 when he joined the Flyers four years earlier. He will never be a big offensive threat, but he’s figured out how to suppress shots and play a reliable defensive game.

 

At a friend’s wedding in the Czech Republic on Friday when he got the news, Gudas received messages from his new teammates and wasn’t even sure who, exactly, of the Capitals coaches he spoke with. There was a lot going on. But he’s excited to play “for a well oiled machine” like Washington, which has its 2018 Stanley Cup and has won the Metropolitan Division four years in a row. 

 

Gudas knows fellow Washington defenseman Michal Kempny, 29, well. The two men were born just three months apart in 1990 and were teammates on the World Juniors under-18 Czech Republic team in 2008. They reconnected in 2017 for the Czech Republics’ entry in the IIHF World Championships. Jakub Vrana, 23, is a third Czech on one of the NHL’s most diverse rosters and played with Gudas at the 2019 World Championships. Kempny was still recovering from a torn hamstring sustained during the regular season. 

 

That familiarity is nice, but Gudas has been traded before when Tampa Bay sent him to Philadelphia in 2015. You just adjust to the role given with your new team. He’s ready for a fresh start with the Capitals. 

 

“They’re the winners from last year, they were the contenders this year,” Gudas said. “They always have a good team. They in the playoffs every year all these years. Play my simple game, the guys to know what to expect for me and know I’ll be there for them.”

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Capitals Talk hosts "Capitals On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

Capitals Talk hosts "Capitals On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

With the NHL Draft just a few days away in Vancouver and after countless mock drafts, NBC Sports Washington will have you covered as the Capitals decide who to take with the 25th overall pick.

As part of NBC Sports Washington's coverage of the NHL Draft, the Capitals Talk Podcast will host 'Capitals On the Clock: Draft Night' on linear television and as a live stream on the NBC Sports MyTeams app.

Capitals Talk will sit down with Rob Carlin, Grant Paulsen, Al Koken, Michael Jenkins, J.J. Regan and Brian McNally to discuss the Capitals the 2019 Draft. They'll be joined by Zack Fisch, Manager of Media Relations & Broadcasting with the Hershey Bears, who will shed light on who's ready to make the jump from the AHL to the NHL.

The live stream will also include an NHL and Capitals Draft trivia segment which fans will be able to play along with.

And if you haven't already downloaded the MyTeams App, you can do so right now, RIGHT HERE.

Capitals Talk Podcast "Capitals on the Clock" Special

When: 8 p.m. Friday June 21

Where: NBC Sports Washington and NBC Sports MyTeams App

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