After enduring trade rumors, Evgeny Kuznetsov remains a part of the Capitals and is determined to make a strong comeback.

ARLINGTON — Evgeny Kuznetsov is still his typical jovial, smiling self off the ice. He is also very much still with the Washington Capitals.

Following his second underwhelming season in three years and amidst ongoing trade speculations, it was uncertain whether Kuznetsov would return. However, he has now rejoined the training camp and remains in Washington with no change in his situation. Despite his occasional inconsistency, the skilled Russian center expresses contentment in staying and believes that a new coach will aid in his resurgence.

“I am currently in a positive state of mind,” stated Kuznetsov on Thursday following the initial on-ice training session. “The entire team has a chance for a new beginning, and I am dedicated to concentrating on my individual objectives every day. My aim is to assist the team, bring joy to others, and ultimately contribute to the success of this team.”

In order for the Capitals to be successful, Kuznetsov will likely need to exceed his 55-point performance from last season. This is despite him, general manager Brian MacLellan, and captain Alex Ovechkin attributing his lower performance to an injury during the spring. Kuznetsov is a vital player with a salary cap hit of $7.8 million, making him the fourth-highest paid player on the team. He was the top scorer during the 2018 Stanley Cup run, and Washington failed to make the playoffs last season when he was not performing at his best.

“I cannot reword”

Kuznetsov declined to say whether he directly asked for a trade during the offseason, something MacLellan wouldn’t get into, either. Kuznetsov said the situation was “complicated.”

Maybe both teams would have gained something from a change of environment, but the Capitals were not willing to give up Kuznetsov without receiving anything in return or accepting a less favorable contract. Despite a lack of trade activity in the NHL, no deals were made and it appears that everyone involved is satisfied to continue as is.

Ovechkin referred to Kuznetsov as a significant contributor to the team and expressed confidence in his ability to demonstrate improvement from the previous year.

One reason to expect that is first-time head coach Spencer Carbery, who MacLellan said has spoken a few times to Kuznetsov about his situation. Kuznetsov said the conversations with Carbery were “honest” and figures this will be something of a new beginning after the departure of Peter Laviolette.

“I cannot reword”

Kuznetsov has the potential to be a difference-maker. As recently as the 2021-22 season – the last time his name was bandied about in trade talk – he was nearly a point-a-game player with 24 goals and 54 assists.

Currently 31 years old, Kuznetsov aims to surpass or reach the performance level he had before, while having two more years remaining on his $62.4 million contract signed in 2017.

“I desire for individuals to find joy in my style of play, in the abilities I possess,” he expressed. “I am aware that I am one of the essential components that must perform exceptionally well every evening.”

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