Capitals waive former star forward Evgeny Kuznetsov

Ovechkin notches his 839th career goal vs. Flyers (0:32)

Alex Ovechkin scores goal No. 839 to pull the Capitals closer vs. Flyers. (0:32)

Longtime Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov cleared waivers Sunday after not being claimed by any of the NHL's other 31 teams and has been assigned to Hershey of the American Hockey League.

News of Kuznetsov being placed on waivers came down Saturday, just hours after the center was cleared to resume practicing as he entered the follow-up care phase of the NHL/NHLPA assistance program. Kuznetsov entered the program Feb. 6 and had missed Washington's past 12 games.

It's unclear why Kuznetsov, 31, entered the program. Teams are not told details of a player's absence because of confidentiality rules.

He is in the penultimate season of his eight-year, $64.5 million contract that includes a no-trade clause.

"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 before his team's game against the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday. "That's what I'm hopeful for."

Kuznetsov was once a top-tier forward but has struggled to produce offensively in recent years and has just 17 points in 43 appearances this season.

"It's about a fresh start for Kuzy, first of all," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said Saturday. "He's been looking for a change in environment, and this might set the wheels in motion for that to be accomplished."

Carbery talked to the rest of his players about Kuznetsov going on waivers, a nod to a player who has been a big part of Washington's 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."

At his peak, Kuznetsov was Washington's leading scorer on its run to a Stanley Cup championship in 2018, putting up 12 goals and 32 points through 24 playoff games. In 2019, the Russian-born skater was suspended without pay for three regular-season games by the NHL for "inappropriate conduct," less than a month after he was banned from playing for Russia internationally for four years because of a positive test for cocaine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.