Kuznetsov was absent from practice this morning for what the team labeled “personal reasons.” 31-year-old AHL veteran Michael Sgarbossa was recalled from AHL Hershey to replace Kuznetsov on the active roster.
The Russian center will now be out indefinitely while he receives care from the program, and he will not be cleared to return until PAP administrators clear him for on-ice competition. The 31-year-old is in his 11th season with the Capitals after the franchise selected him 26th overall in the 2010 draft.
This is Kuznetsov’s second time entering the program, which was previously known as the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. He did so voluntarily in 2019 after a positive drug test for cocaine while playing for Russia at the 2019 IIHF World Championship.
Kuznetsov’s 0.40 points per game this season are the lowest of his career, including his limited rookie showing in the 2013-14 campaign. Through 43 games, he has six goals, 11 assists, 17 points, and a 43.2% Corsi share at even strength while averaging 18:47 per game.
He’s only two years removed from a 24-goal, 78-point season, both of which were the second-best numbers of his career. He has one season after this remaining on an eight-year, $62.4MM deal signed in July 2017 that carries a $7.8MM cap hit. The contract carries a modified no-trade clause which awards Kuznetsov a 10-team no-trade list.
With Kuznetsov out for the foreseeable future, Sgarbossa is expected to make his season debut for the Capitals on Tuesday against the Canadiens in a third-line role between Anthony Mantha and Max Pacioretty. Sgarbossa likely won’t be a longer-term fixture in Washington’s top-nine, however, and Kuznetsov’s absence could influence the Capitals to give 21-year-old Hendrix Lapierre another shot after playing 25 games earlier this season. Lapierre, the 22nd overall pick in the 2020 draft, is currently on assignment to Hershey, where he has 11 points in 16 games this season.