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Longtime Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov is expected to join AHL Hershey after clearing waivers

WASHINGTON — Longtime Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov is expected to report to the Hershey Bears after clearing waivers, the American Hockey League-leading team said Monday.

The Bears confirmed Kuznetsov is expected to take part in their practice Tuesday. Not yet cleared to play while receiving care under the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program, the 31-year-old Russian will not speak to reporters until he's able to take part in games, the team said.

Kuznetsov went on waivers Saturday, hours after the league and union revealed he had progressed in the program to the point of being able to join the Capitals for practice. General manager Brian MacLellan said the organization and Kuznetsov's camp were looking for a change of scenery.

“Just feel for him as a person and hope the outcome of this is just the best for him and his family,” coach Spencer Carbery said Sunday. “That’s what I’m hopeful for.”

In the penultimate season of an eight-year, $62.4 million contract, Kuznetsov is owed $8 million in 2024-25. Because of that, it was unsurprising that none of the other 31 teams put in a claim for Kuznetsov, who had just 17 points in 43 games.

His inconsistent production since being Washington's leading scorer during its 2018 Stanley Cup run has created plenty of tension and tumultuous times around the team and several summers of trade talks.

“We’ve had history together, and an opportunity for him to have a fresh start, I think, is the main theme of what we’re trying to accomplish,” MacLellan said Saturday. “It’s just an opportunity for our side, too, to start fresh and try to get him an opportunity to continue his career.”

Carbery talked to the rest of his players over the weekend about Kuznetsov going on waivers, a nod to a player who has been a big part of the Capitals' core for more than a decade.

“Someone that’s been in the organization a long time, and a lot of guys in our room or some of the guys in our room have been with him for all 11 years,” Carbery said. "I felt like I owed him that.”

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press