Capitals sign Evgeny Kuznetsov to entry-level deal, will play on Monday

Harry How

Washington's top prospect will make his long-awaited debut this week.

The Washington Capitals received some much-needed offensive help on Saturday when they signed prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov to an entry-level deal.

He's expected to make his NHL debut on Monday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Kuznetsov has spent the last five seasons playing in the KHL for Traktor Chelyabinsk, even after he was drafted in the first round by Washington in 2010. His contract with Chelyabinsk finally expired on April 30. Reports circulated over the last two weeks that he was on his way to North America, but the Capitals declined to confirm anything.

According to NHL and KHL agreements, the NHL must have proof that a player has no contract in the KHL before he is allowed to sign a deal with an NHL club. Washington apparently received that proof this week, and now Kuznetsov is signed for two years.

Kuznetsov is expected to bolster the Capitals' offense, which has been middling this season behind Alex Ovechkin's stellar year. The 21-year-old scored 63 goals and 138 points in his last four seasons with Chelyabinsk. The transition to the North American game can be tough, but Dallas Stars rookie Valeri Nichushkin is proof that some KHL players can adapt quickly.

Plus, Kuznetsov will be staying with Alex Ovechkin for the rest of the year. So that can't hurt.

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