Last month, Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov received a four-year suspension from the IIHF for a positive test for cocaine at the World Championships back in May. At the time, the NHL did not issue a suspension of their own but that has changed. The league announced that Kuznetsov has been suspended for three games for inappropriate conduct and that there would be no further comment on the matter. However, Kuznetsov released the following statement:
I have decided to accept the NHL’s suspension today. I am once again sorry that I have disappointed my family, my teammates, and the Capitals organization and fans. I promise to do everything in my power to win you back with my actions both on and off the ice. I also understand that I am fortunate to have an opportunity to make things right. Thanks to the Capitals, NHL, and NHLPA, I have taken many steps in the right direction and I’m confident that I will continue on that path. I am grateful for everyone’s support and I’m looking to move forward from this point. While I can appreciate that people may have additional questions, I will not be commenting further on this matter.
At the time of the IIHF’s suspension, the league had indicated that Commissioner Gary Bettman would meet with the 27-year-old before deciding how to proceed. Khurshudyan notes that the meeting took place on Monday.
While the IIHF considers cocaine a performance-enhancing substance, the NHL does not which is why this is not a standard 20-game suspension for a first violation of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program.
Unlike most suspensions, this one will allow the Capitals to remove Kuznetsov from their salary cap while it is being served, a team source reported to NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti (Twitter link). That will actually give them some much-needed cap flexibility to start the season though it comes at the cost of one of their top forwards. In the meantime, as it is a regular season suspension, Kuznetsov will be eligible to participate in the preseason.
Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post was the first to report that Kuznetsov would be suspended.