It’s been a week since the hockey world all momentarily turned their eyes on the Minnesota Wild and Kirill Kaprizov. A bombshell rumor from NHL Network’s Kevin Weekes noted that Kaprizov was back home in Russia while CSKA Moscow was preparing a contract to bring the winger back home. While the danger of Kaprizov leaving North America is much lower than the initial rumor may have suggested, nothing is ever official until pen hits paper.
Today, a new article from The Athletic’s Michael Russo provided a tad more clarity into Kaprizov’s negotiations. One serious complicating factor for both Kaprizov and the Wild is that their second- and third-best forwards, Joel Eriksson Ek and Kevin Fiala, are similarly in need of new deals for next season. In a Tuesday radio interview with Russo referenced in the article, Wild general manager Bill Guerin had this to say:
Well, it’s definitely a busy summer. But it’s not like we haven’t been planning for it for a long time. This stuff has been going on in our office for months and months and months, and it’s not like the season ends and now it’s like ’ok, let’s figure it out.’ No – we’ve tried to figure this out long in advance so when we have the time, we can just kind of go into action. But yeah, we have to sign Eriksson Ek, we have to sign Fiala, there are a number of UFAs that we have… but we’re already working on it.
Throughout these negotiations, it’s become clear that leverage is what’s most important to Kaprizov and his agent. Russo concurs, pointing out that all signs lead to a bridge deal that takes Kaprizov to unrestricted free agency rather than a maximum eight-year deal.
One potential complicating factor that Guerin won’t have to worry about is the possibility of an offer sheet. Because Kaprizov signed a two-year entry-level deal during the 2019-20 campaign but didn’t play a game in the NHL, he becomes a 10.2(c) RFA, making him ineligible for an offer sheet. His two options are Minnesota or Russia, so it’s not like a different team could lure him away with more money than Guerin can stomach.
The situation doesn’t just end with Kaprizov, Eriksson Ek, and Fiala, though. As Russo points out in his article for The Athletic, Minnesota will need to upgrade at the center position to stay competitive into next season. Just how much of Minnesota’s $22 million in cap space will remain for that? It’s a giant question mark right now for Minnesota’s front office, as the combined cap hits of Kaprizov, Eriksson Ek, and Fiala could come within shouting distance of that number.
With the nature of Ryan Suter’s and Zach Parise’s contracts holding this team back at the moment, it may end up that everybody is signed to bridge deals so that Minnesota can reassess the cap when those deals expire. It’s a risky bet, however, with both deals still having four seasons left. A cap dump trade of one of them could work, and as Parise fell out of favor with the coaching staff this season, he could be dealt with a heavy sweetener from Minnesota’s end. What’s for certain is that the Wild front office is aware of the moment and will make their best attempts to bolster the team for the immediate future.