Capitals Re-sign Kuznetsov, Trade Johansson to Devils
The Washington Capitals re-signed center Evgeny Kuznetsov to an eight-year, $62.4-million contract. They subsequently traded winger Marcus Johansson to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a second-round pick (originally from the Florida Panthers) and a third-round pick (originally from the Toronto Maple Leafs) in 2018.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kuznetsov’s new annual average value is $7.8 million, with a modified no-trade clause that kicks in on July 1, 2019 and running over the remaining term. Johansson is in the second season of a three-year deal with an annual cap hit of $4.583 million.
A restricted free agent on July 1, Kuznetsov was expected to land a lucrative long-term deal with the Capitals this summer. The cap hit is a little higher than the $7 million he was expected to receive. The Capitals obviously felt it a worthwhile investment to make him among the NHL’s highest-paid players.
Over the past two seasons, the 25-year-old play-making center established himself among the Capitals’ top players. He had a 59-point performance in 2016-17 and reached a career-high 77 points in 2015-16. Given his age, It’s reasonable to assume he’ll continue to rank among their leading scorers over the course of his new contract.
The Kuznetsov signing could also raise questions over the long-term future of center Nicklas Backstrom ($6.7 million annual cap hit). Backstrom, who turns 30 in November, has three seasons remaining on his current deal with a modified no-trade clause. If the Capitals fall short again in their quest for a championship next season, a roster shakeup could be in order. With Kuznetsov under a new, lengthy and expensive deal, Backstrom could be part of a potential roster overhaul down the road.
Kuznetsov’s new contract also pushed the Capitals uncomfortably close to the $75 million salary-cap ceiling, necessitating a salary-dumping deal. Hence the reason for Johansson’s departure to New Jersey for a couple of draft picks.
The Caps will miss the versatile 26-year-old Johansson. He can play all three forward positions and steadily improved over the last three years, culminating in last season’s career-best 58-point effort. He should be an invaluable addition to the offense-starved Devils.
Shedding Johansson’s salary leaves the Capitals with over $65 million invested in 14 players, with forward Andre Burakovsky and backup goalie Philipp Grubauer to re-sign.