By Brian Tinsman

WASHINGTON — The Washington Capitals are sending a message loud and clear to the rest of the NHL: they are going on a Stanley Cup run and they believe in the core of talent that they have in place.

After locking up T.J. Oshie and Dmitry Orlov to long-term deals, they have now turned their attention to center Evgeny Kuznetsov, announcing an eight-year, $62.4-million contract on Sunday evening:

Kuznetsov scored 59 points (19g, 40a), while playing in all 82 games with the Capitals last season, second on the team in assists and third in points. He was even more dominant the season before, leading the Capitals with 77 points (20g, 57a), playing in all 82 games.

Kuznetsov was the 10th player in franchise history and the seventh Russian-born player in NHL history to record 57 or more assists in a season.

“Evgeny is a premier center in the NHL and we are pleased that he will remain in Washington for at least the next eight years,” said Caps general manager Brian MacLellan. “It is difficult to find a player of his caliber, who is in his prime and makes his teammates better. Evgeny plays with a tremendous skill, speed and tenacity needed to win in the NHL.”

Kuznetsov was selected by the Capitals in the first round (26th overall) in the 2010 NHL Draft and has earned 182 points (53g, 129a) in 261 career NHL games with Washington. He ranks third among players in the 2010 NHL Draft class in career assists per game (0.49) and fifth in points per game (0.70).

Unfortunately, long-term deals for some players means that other contracts must be moved to make room under the salary cap. After the Kuznetsov deal, the Caps had just more than $4.5 million in cap space. In order to address other needs, they shipped Marcus Johansson to New Jersey for a second and third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

Johansson registered 58 points (24 goals, 34 assists) while playing in all 82 games with the Capitals last season. He has 290 points (102 goals, 188 assists) in 501 career NHL games with the Capitals. He was drafted by Washington in the first round, 24th overall, in the 2009 NHL Draft.


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