The NHL season didn’t end so well for the Capital’s Russian players Evgeny Kuznesov and Dmitry Orlov. As another year ended at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins and fellow countryman Evgeny Malkin, Kuzy and Dima made plans to join Team Russia for the IIHF Worlds in Germany and France.
And boy oh boy did they shine. In their first game against Czech Republic, Orlov, wearing his old 81 sweater, scored the game winning goal of the game. Kuznetsov earned three points in the three games he played (one goal and two assists) to help the team take home the Bronze. He had five shots in nine games. Orlov had seven shots in his five games. Kuzy played with the finesse we are used to seeing while Dima was a speed demon and really lit up the ice when he was on.
The pair of 25 year-old players are both restricted free agents this summer. It is highly likely that the Caps will sign both players. It goes without saying that the KHL has an interest in both players. No doubt the Caps kept an eye on their players and how they performed in different circumstances. They have to balance that against their performance this season.
In his third full year of playing with the Caps, Kuznetsov dropped from a previous high overall points recorded of 77 to 59. While his goal scoring was pretty static (20 dropping to 19), his assist number dropped 57 to 40. His plus/minus dropped from 27 to 18. His power play production dropped, as did his shots indicating that he has not been contributing as much to the teams scoring chances. And yet we believe that the best is yet to come from Kuzy. Maybe World’s was what he needed to shake off the rust of the season past.
Orlov had a rather uneven year. Fans were either all praise or all trade him. This was his second full season after returning from a wrist injury. His overall performance was slightly improved over the 2015/16 season going from 21 to 27 points. Most notable he improved his plus/minus from eight to 30, meaning he was on the ice when a lot of Caps goals were scored. Then again, his save percentage dropped from 8.9 to 4.8. When it comes to the playoffs–which is really where the team needs to focus, Orlov was a shooting machine who had three assists to help the team.
Going forward it will take a little bit of $$ and some longer contracts to keep these two on the roster. The last time Orlov negotiated a contract, it went down to the wire and it wasn’t clear if the two sides would come to agreement. Given the uneven performance, the Caps might decide to go with another one- or a two-year contract to see how he improves. For Kuznetsov, the team again is highly likely to sign him to a multi-year deal Many have believed that the long-term future of the Caps rests on the shoulders of younger players and none more than Kuzy.
The watch continues as the boys and their families head off to vacation and spend time catching up with family and friends.