Oilers 2023 Offseason Trade Targets: Evgeny Kuznetsov

The Edmonton Oilers aren’t expected to make a big splash during free agency and shell out money for a big name on the market. Instead, I would assume they’re going to spend small in free agency and try to make some moves during the offseason via trade to improve their team. They’re looking to bolster their offensive depth and improve their defensive structure, so acquiring Evgeny Kuznetsov could help solve at least one of those two issues.

Kuznetsov is rumored to want a trade from the Washington Capitals and take his talents to a different contending team. He is one of the better players the Capitals have, so he won’t be a cheap pickup, but it will still be a bidding war as teams will be all over his offensive ability and consistency that he provides year to year.

Related: Oilers 2023 Free Agent Targets: Jonathan Toews

I don’t expect the Oilers to make more than a couple of moves to switch their roster up, but this would be the one player I expect them to be interested in trading for. They don’t want to do an overhaul and risk messing with team chemistry, but one big move may just be enough to push the Oilers to the top of the list of Stanley Cup favorites in 2023-24.

Who Is Kuznetsov & How Does He Benefit The Oilers?

Kuznetsov is a 31-year-old left-shot centreman from Chelyabinsk, Russia currently playing for the Capitals. He was drafted by the Capitals in the first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at 26th overall. He has played nine full seasons with the Capitals playing 680 games in that span scoring 165 goals and adding 386 assists for 551 points which comes out to a 0.81 points per game average.

Kuznetsov played his junior career in Russia in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) where in his draft year played 35 games scoring two goals and adding eight assists for ten points. He continued playing in the KHL through the 2013-14 season where he made his debut with the Capitals after eight goals and 13 assists in 31 games with Traktor Chelyabinsk.

Washington Capitals Evgeny Kuznetsov (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The Oilers are looking mainly to bolster their offensive depth, so adding a player that has put up consistent 50-point seasons and is close to the top of the team leaderboard each season will do just that. Kuznetsov is coming off of a 12-goal, 43-assist season through 81 games and was third on the Caps in scoring. Now, imagine playing alongside three 100-point scorers and a much stronger team of goalscorers around him.

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He has been on a strong team his entire life, but individually he hasn’t been able to get up to his full potential. I honestly think he could reach 110-120 points in his first season as an Oiler. He’s a playmaker, so being beside Alex Ovechkin helped his point total but alongside Connor Mcdavid and Leon Draisaitl, he would reach another level.

Kuznetsov is also a sound defensive player. It’s not a strong part of his game, but he still plays his position well and gets the puck out of his own end when he needs to. It also helps his case that he has a Stanley Cup under his belt, so he knows what it takes to win it all.

What Would It Cost The Oilers?

Kuznetsov is in the second last year of his eight-year contract with the Capitals where he earns $7.8 million a season with a modified no-trade clause. The Oilers are tight for cap space as it is, so this move will be tough to make work as far as money goes, but not impossible by any means.

I would guess the Oilers would acquire Kuznetsov in exchange for Kailer Yamamoto, Cody Ceci, Xavier Bourgault, Yanni Kaldis, and a 2024 first-round draft pick. The Caps would have to retain some salary for this to work, but they’d be getting a top prospect, two NHL-ready players, a depth defenseman, and a late first-round pick, so this would make sense for them.