Kirill Kaprizov seems to take fans on an emotional rollercoaster like few players in the Minnesota Wild’s history, and, likely future.
The supremely-talented forward took the Twin Cities by storm this past season after his arrival to the NHL was anticipated for the previous five years. He was deemed to be a franchise savior before he took the ice for the Wild and he showed the potential to live up to those expectations as he received the Calder Memorial Trophy as a near-unanimous selection.
He finished the year as the top rookie in both goals (27) , points (54) and shots on goal (157).. Kaprizov also was the first Wild player to receive league honor.
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And it seemed to be just the beginning for Kaprizov who rocketed into the local sports fandom level that players like Randy Moss and Kevin Garnett had visited previously. The 24-year-old even noted his feelings for the area in a season-ending media availability session.
“I like everything (about Minnesota. Everything’s been good and the team’s been good to me,” he said through an interpreter. “I’m very happy here overall.”
That might be true to a point but money seems to talk louder. In fact, Kaprizov’s — or his agent/people’s — ability, to make noise on the ice is being challenged by what he produces off it.
The drama level increased on Tuesday night as the Daily Faceoff reported that Kaprizov has a tentative one-year contract agreement with CSKA Moscow of the KHL that will pay at least $10 million. The agreement reportedly kicks in on Sept. 1 if the restricted free agent can not come to an agreement with the Wild by then.
First glance, it looks like a negotiating ploy by Kaprizov’s agent, Paul Theofanous, to pressure the Wild into a deal. Do people really believe that Kaprizov would really be happy making a return to the KHL after showing his skills in the NHL? But it is enough to freak out Wild fans or at least maybe heighten some emotions.
Michael Russo of The Athletic repeated on Tuesday that the Wild have had offers for seven- and eight years in the neighborhood of roughly $9 million per year. That would be the richest contract for the franchise history for a player who has a combined 62 regular season and playoff games with the Wild.
The contract length seems to continue to be at the heart of the matter.
Wild general manager Bill Guerin has indicated for a month that he’s willing to compromise by signing Kaprizov to a mid-range deal believed to be five or six years. However, Guerin still prefers not to sign Kaprizov to three or fewer years because the star forward can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2024.
Odds are that Minnesota and Kaprizov reach an agreement at some point over the next few weeks. Guerin might not like being presented a threat, but he and the Wild are not dumb. They are not going to let the player who is the franchise guy get away after a year. And, no, they likely won’t trade him either.
But, there will still be questions in terms of Kaprizov.
One of the biggest is is Kaprizov’s overall endgame? Is he the happy, go-lucky player who seemed to smile through every game with the Wild this year. Or is he and his team already thinking about ways to get to a larger market, like New York or Los Angeles?
It might take time for Kaprizov to determine what really will make him happy in his career, and with it, likely a lot more drama along the way.