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Caps GM: Team open to trading Kuzy, others 'if it makes sense' originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
As a massively interesting summer commences in Washington for the Capitals, a popular rumor has been a potential trade of center Evgeny Kuznetsov. A few weeks ago, it was reported that the Capitals could look to trade him in the offseason.
On Wednesday, general manager Brian MacLellan didn’t shoot down those rumors.
"I think we're always open to trading people if it makes sense for what's going on,” MacLellan said. “If it's going to make our team better, I think we're open to it. I don't think anybody's off the table. We're not going to trade Ovi or Backy and those type of people, but I think you have to be open on anything. We would talk to anybody about any player."
Kuznetsov is now halfway through his eight-year $62.4 million deal, but since the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018, he hasn’t regained the same level of dominance that led the team to a championship.
Now, the Capitals are in a tight spot with a flat salary cap (of $81.5 million) for the next few seasons and key players referenced by MacLellan like Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson and T.J. Oshie locked into long-term deals. That doesn’t take into account a new contract for Alex Ovechkin, meaning the Capitals will need to shed salary in some way before the 2021-22 season.
If that takes the form of a Kuznetsov trade, the Capitals will assuredly look for value that could help them immediately on the NHL roster. MacLellan indicated that, when Kuznetsov is on his game, the Capitals are a tough team to beat. When he’s not, the Capitals aren’t a very deep team at center and aren't very competitive.
Kuznetsov’s 2020-21 regular season was certainly up and down, as he tallied 29 points in 41 games with two trips to the COVID-19 list, the second of which lasted into the playoffs. He returned in Game 3 against the Bruins before the Caps' early playoff exit.
And since that 2017-18 season, Kuznetsov’s points-per-game average has gone down each year since that Stanley Cup season.
So while the Capitals and MacLellan didn’t appear anxious to move him just yet, and certainly think he's still useful to the team, a trade is certainly not off the table.
"I think it's the key to our organization what decisions get made or how he plays or how he comes out of this," MacLellan said. "We won the Stanley Cup because we had a great 1-2 punch and [Lars] Eller in the third spot, so center depth is important. We need him to play at his highest ability, and if he can't play at his highest ability, we're not going to be a good team and we'd have to make some other decisions."