A few weeks ago, it seemed like things were progressing well in the contract talks between the Minnesota Wild and Kirill Kaprizov. A general structure of a five-year, $45MM contract had been tabled, and it appeared as though the high-scoring winger would be signed well before camp opens later this month. Now, without a deal announced, Wild fans are beginning to get nervous. Speaking with The Athletic’s Michael Russo, Minnesota GM Bill Guerin explained that the two sides still aren’t very far apart but that things haven’t progressed recently:
I will say this, we are at a point where we feel we’re being extremely fair. How far apart are we? Not very, but sometimes those can be the things that take a while. I mean, that’s the way I see it. You could ask Paul [Theofanous] or Kirill and they might say something very different.
Guerin continues to caution fans that this is normal with high-profile RFAs, as you can see from the ongoing negotiations around the league. Elias Pettersson, Brady Tkachuk, Rasmus Dahlin, and Quinn Hughes are all still unsigned, along with several other mid-tier free agents as well. Kaprizov’s situation is not necessarily unique from that perspective, though his work visa and travel status make it so that he’ll have to face a longer wait to join camp whenever he does officially sign.
The Wild will start their preseason schedule in 11 days, taking on the St. Louis Blues on Sept 25. Whether Kaprizov will even be in camp by then is unclear, given the stalemate that Russo suggests.
A $9MM average annual value, the terms reported previously, would tie Kaprizov with Jeff Skinner of the Buffalo Sabres for the 18th highest-paid forward in the league next season. That’s a massive commitment for a player that has just 55 regular season NHL games under his belt, but Kaprizov is also a relatively unique case because of his success in the KHL and internationally.
Artemi Panarin, for instance, who is oft used as the closest comparable to Kaprizov because of their similar path to the NHL, signed a two-year contract extension just 117 games into his own career. That deal carried just a $6MM average annual value, but also took Panarin right to unrestricted free agency where he then signed a seven-year, $81.5MM deal that made him one of the highest-paid players in the league. At the time of his extension with the Chicago Blackhawks, Panarin had 45 goals and 114 points in 117 regular season games, a 0.97 points-per-game rate. Kaprizov sat at 0.93 through his first NHL season and, like Panarin, took home the Calder Trophy as the league’s best rookie.
Whether Guerin cautions against it or not, Minnesota fans are certainly biting their nails waiting for the eventual decision to come down as the hopes for this season certainly rest on Kaprizov’s shoulders. The 24-year-old forward is arguably the most exciting player the franchise has ever known and is a key to their entire offensive structure.
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