After half a decade of waiting, Minnesota’s top prospect in franchise history, Kirill Kaprizov, finally came over.
And now, his tenure in Saint Paul has hit a rocky road.
The Wild are in an ugly situation right now, having to deal with Kaprizov only had a one-year deal to begin his career, making him a 10.2 RFA once July 28 hit. Kaprizov is safe from being offer-sheeted, but unlike most RFAs, he’s got the KHL calling with a deal he might be unable to refuse. According to Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli, CSKA Moscow – Kaprizov’s former KHL abode – has offered the young forward a one-year deal worth around $10 million.
When the Wild bought out two of the former faces of the franchise in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the idea was that the Wild could use the extra money to sign Kaprizov and fellow top RFA Kevin Fiala. They have $19 million in current cap space with just those two left to sign, but the team hasn’t gone to the open market outside of bringing in defensemen Alex Goligoski, Dmitry Kulikov and Jon Merrill.
And now this Kaprizov situation is becoming more complicated.
Everyone knew this was a possibility – there were early reports that Kaprizov’s camp would make it a challenge for the Wild to sign him to anything but a mega-contract. Anything under a three-year deal would allow Kaprizov, 24, to become a UFA on his next deal, something the Wild will want to avoid for as long as possible. But if Kaprizov continues to play like he did this year – or even much better – then there’s no lack of suitors that would want a piece of one of the most promising young wingers in the league.
And that’s the dilemma the Wild are in.
Committing big bucks to a player coming off of his rookie season is dangerous. For as good as Kaprizov is, he only has 55 games to his credit. Granted, we’re talking about a guy who likely would have finished with nearly 80 points in a full campaign, but that’s projecting, not reality.
This contract negotiation was always going to be hard. The Wild can’t afford to lose a player of his skill level, but Kaprizov’s camp has all the leverage here, made more so by the public leak of his Russian contract offer.
So, what do the Wild do from here? Seravalli reported that Kaprizov’s camp claims there hasn’t been a contract offer made since April. If that’s to be believed, whoa. But there’s a ton of room for skepticism towards Kaprizov’s side as to whether or not that’s truly the case.
Marco Rossi is on the way, and forward Matt Boldy and defensemen Calen Addison are another year or two from being in the fray. But as a whole, Minnesota’s prospect core isn’t that inspiring, so having an effective Kaprizov is something that can truly take this team to great heights. Kaprizov made a team that’s often regarded as being too boring for its own good fun, and, again, Kaprizov’s group has all the leverage in this case because they know that’s true.
Kaprizov going to the KHL wouldn’t be good for him, or the Wild, in the long term. It’s like when Alex Radulov escaped back to the KHL after making a splash as a youngster in Nashville. That relationship soured, and while he still went on to have a good NHL career, those early days will always loom over his pro career. If the Wild wastes a year of Kaprizov’s career due to a contract hang-up, it’s going to be terrible for optics, and GM Bill Guerin knows that.
Kaprizov’s agent, Paul Theofanous, isn’t a stranger to getting big money contracts out of his star Russian clients. Artemi Panarin’s cap hit is over $11.6-million with the Rangers, while Sergei Bobrovsky has one of the biggest deals for a goaltender in league history at $10-million per season. He’ll hold pat as long as it takes to get the most money out of Kaprizov, especially if the Wild aren’t willing to go on a short-term deal, as they shouldn’t. Both sides are going to want the maximum out of this because Kaprizov knows what he’s worth and the Wild knows how important he is to this team.
It’s not every day a rookie you waited five years for becomes a fan favorite. But Kirill the Thrill will be worth the price of admission once the Xcel Energy Center allows a full capacity again. But the Wild need to ensure they don’t lose him because if there’s ever been someone they’ve needed to keep around in franchise history, it’s Kaprizov.