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Caps Come to Terms with Kuznetsov

July 2, 2017
While many of the NHL’s teams are opening their wallets and checkbooks in pursuit of unrestricted free agents this weekend, the Capitals have had their checkbooks open for the last 10 days. On Sunday, the Caps announced the signing of center Evgeny Kuznetsov to an eight-year contract extension worth a total of $62.4 million. The Kuznetsov pact will carry an annual salary cap hit of $7.8 million through the conclusion of the 2024-25 season. 

Including contract extensions for right wing T.J. Oshie on June 23 and defenseman Dmitry Orlov on June 30, the Caps have committed $139 million to three players in the last 10 days.

With today’s signing, Kuznetsov becomes the second highest paid player on the team, trailing only Alex Ovechkin’s $9,538,462 annual salary. In terms of average annual salary cap hit, Kuznetsov becomes the league’s eighth highest paid center, coming in behind Chicago’s Jonathan Toews ($10.5 million), Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar ($10 million), Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin ($9.5 million) and Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million), Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos ($8.5 million), Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux ($8.25 million) and Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf ($8 million), all according to capfriendly.com. 

Dallas’ Jason Spezza ($7.5 million) and Buffalo’s Ryan O’Reilly ($7.5 million round out the top 10, while Boston’s David Krejci ($7.25 million), St. Louis’ Paul Stastny ($7 million) and Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin ($7 million) are the only other pivots in the league whose average annual cap hits come in as high as $7 million.

Kuznetsov becomes the youngest of the league’s $7 million centers; only O’Reilly (26) and Stamkos (27) are within two years of the 25-year-old Kuznetsov. 

Although Kuznetsov now earns more annually than Caps teammate and fellow center Nicklas Backstrom, Kuznetsov’s new deal is a mere 10.4% of the total salary cap for the upcoming season. When Backstrom signed his current 10-year, $67 million contract to start with the 2010-11 season, that pact represented 11.28% of the total salary cap at that time ($59.4 million). 

Backstrom played in all 246 games during his first three seasons in the NHL, registering 69 goals and 258 points while playing alongside Alex Ovechkin during some of the best seasons of the latter’s career. Backstrom averaged 19:47 per night in ice time during those three seasons – the basis for his own 10-year contract extension – and he logged between 3:50 per night in power play ice time. 

Kuznetsov has played in 261 games over three and a fraction seasons in the league, the basis for his own eight-year extension. While playing with a variety of players and mostly centering Washington’s second line, Kuznetsov has totaled 53 goals and 182 points over that span. But Kuznetsov has posted those figures while averaging just 15:46 per night, or four minutes a night less than Backstrom at roughly similar points in their respective careers. Kuznetsov has also played on the second power play for most of his career to date, averaging just 1:49 per night with the extra man.

Kuznetsov’s deal puts the Caps within a few million dollars of the NHL’s $75 million salary cap for the upcoming season, virtually ensuring that Washington will have to make a deal to move some salary out at some point this summer. Even with a few minimum wage rookies being integrated into the lineup, the Caps would have less than $3 million of space remaining, and they still must come to terms with restricted free agent winger Andre Burakovsky and RFA goaltender Philipp Grubauer. The team won’t be able to get those two players signed and still come in under the $75 million threshold. 

Today being July 2, the Caps have roughly three months between now and the time they must come into compliance with that $75 million cap figure. During the offseason, teams are permitted to exceed the cap ceiling by 10%, making the summer cap figure $82.5 million.

Structure of Kuznetsov Contract Extension 

Year

Total

Salary

Bonus

2017-18

$10.0

 $5.0

 $5.0

2018-19

$10.0

 $5.0

 $5.0

2019-20

$8.4

 $3.4

 $5.0

2020-21

$5.0

 $3.0

 $2.0

2021-22

$8.0

 $3.0

 $5.0

2022-23

$5.0

 $3.0

 $2.0

2023-24

$8.0

 $6.0

 $2.0

2024-25

$8.0

 $6.0

 $2.0

 

 

 

 

Total

$62.40

 $34.40

 $28.00

AAV

$7.80

 

 

  Figures expressed in millions of dollars

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