The Washington Post was pretty spot on when they suggested that two to three years was a likely figure for centre Evgeny Kuznetsov — because just one day after it was spectulated that heâ€™d be looking for that kind of term, the club went ahead and announced a two year extension for the Russian forward.
Kuznetsov, who just wrapped up his rookie NHL season, has inked a two year deal worth a reported $6M — putting his annual cap hit at $3M and carrying him through to his nextÂ RFA negotiations when heâ€™s twenty-five.
This is an ideal term and dollar value for the Chelyabinsk native; not only does it give him room to see a pay raise if he does well, it holds over just long enough that he has time to improve (but the club may potentially get a season at immense value out of him before itâ€™s time for him to re-up with the club). This means that as he gains more confidence on NHL ice — something his playoff campaign suggests is just around the corner — heâ€™llÂ watch his negotiation leverage go up; while heâ€™s reasonably a $3 million dollar player now, Kuznetsov could easily become a $5 or $6 million dollar player in the future.
The Capitals had money to play with, but theyâ€™re a team that can sometimes inch close to the cap — so while this deal is good for Kuznetsov, itâ€™s important to realize that itâ€™s also good for his club. With an extension (and likely a hefty raise) due for RFA Braden Holtby as well, the Capitals will need to be cautious about not throwing out huge money to players prematurely.
Now that this deal is official and out in the open, though, the Capitals do need to address the Holtby situation.
At 25, Braden Holtby has seen his game settle down into what many hoped it would under the direction of netminding coach Mitch Korn. Heâ€™s poised, calm, and confident — and deserved to get paid for it.
Thereâ€™s plenty of contention among NHL fans regarding what exactly a netminder should be paid, though — and with league comparable estimates putting an extension for Toronto Maple Leafs RFA starter Jonathan Bernier at around $4.5-$5M AAV, it seems likely that Holtby could command something similar. The question, at this point, is whether the Capitals want to give him term or pay him big now. He doesnâ€™t seem likely to accept anything below that $4.5 mark — but could easily command as much as $6M given the market rate for netminders by the time heâ€™s ready to hit unrestricted free agency. Kuznetsovâ€™s deal seemed easy and painless; Holtbyâ€™s doesnâ€™t have the same air about it.