That Evgeny Kuznetsov responded to the question with a question didn't make the center's answer any less revealing.

Heading into his fourth full season with the Washington Capitals, having signed an eight-year, $62.4 million contract on July 2, does Kuznetsov envision himself taking on more of a leadership role?

"You mean, make serious speeches in the locker room?" Kuznetsov said.

Being serious doesn't seem to fit Kuznetsov's playful personality. Sticking a puck between his teeth and skating it over to the linesman, as he did during a stoppage in play against the Detroit Red Wings last season, is more his style.

But though Kuznetsov is often the one lightening the mood, he has a serious side that's driven by his desire to win and he is embracing the idea of becoming one of the Capitals' leaders.

"There's a little bit more responsibility now on me and that's what I need," he said. "That's what I want, and I want the coaching staff, the fans, everybody to expect more from me. It's a challenge. That's what I want. That's what I need."

After winning the Presidents' Trophy in back-to-back seasons, the Capitals are in transition. They're looking to replace defenseman Karl Alzner (signed with the Montreal Canadiens) and forwards Justin Williams (signed with the Carolina Hurricanes) and Marcus Johansson (traded to the New Jersey Devils). Williams and Johansson each scored 24 goals last season, and Kuznetsov is among those who need to increase his production.