McNally: No way Kuznetsov's teammates let him slide

Ben Krimmel
August 29, 2019 - 11:15 am

Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov should not expect his teammates to let him slide for his positive cocaine test, NBC Sports Washington's Brian McNally said on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday.

There is "no way" Capitals teammates don't care about Kuznetsov's use of cocaine, McNally told The Sports Junkies. And the on-ice reason being, the Caps know they can't afford to have Kuznetsov turn in a second-consecutive up-and-down season like he did last season. 

"If you're Tom Wilson or Alex Ovechkin and you're going, you know man, we can't win a Cup without Evgeny Kuznetsov playing at close to a level that he played at in the playoffs in 2018, you know he can play that way," McNally said. "And instead, you get an erratic, up-and-down season. My whole point was just there are gonna be questions from his teammates. 

MORE: Could Kuznetsov become be a salary-cap cut?

That doesn't mean they're gonna pull him aside and be like, 'Hey, what are you doing, man?' or like, 'What's going on?' But there's no way that's just going to completely be allowed to slide," McNally told The Junks.

In May, Kuznetsov was cleared by the NHL after he was seen in a video at a Las Vegas hotel with rolled up bills and a white powdery substance. And only days before, the Capitals forward tested positive for cocaine during a test by the International Ice Hockey Federation. He would then receive a four-year ban from the IIHF. 

While Kuznetsov didn't test positive in a test conducted by the NHL, questions still remain about whether he was honest during the league's investigation.

"He basically did the I was there 10 minutes and rolled out, wasn't me," McNally said. "If you're going to lie to the NHL directly, I think, that's where (NHL Commissioner) Gary Bettman may have some leeway and that's why their written statement left open a little bit the possibility of some kind of punishment." 

MORE: Kuznetsov must pay price for lying to fans

McNally said you can't rule out punishment, but the league has generally not punished players from recreational drug use instead opting for treatment for abuse.

Of course, there are still many other unknowns that could determine Kuznetsov's availability down the line.

"We don't know if.... this is recreation use? Is this an actual substance abuse issue, which it's possible it could be," McNally said. "And, again, that's where the treatment part comes in." 

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