Tuesday: Michael Russo of The Athletic reports that Kaprizov’s deal will include a European Assignment Clause for next season. He explains that if the Wild for whatever reason decide to try and assign the young forward to their AHL team, he can instead go overseas. Russo also writes (subscription required) that the team could loan Kaprizov to an overseas team for some games before the 2020-21 season begins in December.
Monday: The wait is over. Kirill Kaprizov has finally signed his entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild. The two-year deal will start for the 2019-20 season, meaning Kaprisov will burn the first season without actually playing. He is not eligible to suit up for the playoffs, though he can practice with the team during this short training camp. Wild GM Bill Guerin released a statement on the move:
We are thrilled to officially sign and welcome Kirill to our organization. He has exceeded all expectations in his development since he was drafted in 2015. Kirill is a smart and dynamic forward that has led the KHL in goals each of the past two seasons and we look forward to having him on our roster when next season starts.
It’s hard to overstate just how much hype has been built around Kaprizov’s arrival. The 23-year old forward has been widely regarded as the best player not currently in the NHL, given his dominance of the KHL to this point. While Guerin mentions his goal-scoring ability over the past two seasons, it’s been more than just putting the puck in the net for Kaprizov. Over his last four seasons, the 5’10” winger has 195 points in 209 regular season games, has won a Gagarin Cup, Olympic gold, World Junior bronze, World Championship bronze, and was named to the KHL All-Star game four times.
In Minnesota—where he will wear #97—Kaprizov is expected to step directly into a top-six role and produce high offensive numbers. While that is a big task for anyone changing leagues and continents, scouts everywhere have agreed that the young forward could be a game-changing presence right away.
The question now becomes how long the Wild will be able to keep him. Burning the first season of a two-year entry-level deal means that Kaprisov will be a restricted free agent next summer. Being 23 already means he is also a lot closer to unrestricted free agency than most new players and could force the Wild to make a big long-term extension offer for his second contract. That puts a lot of pressure on him during the 2020-21 season to perform, especially since he’ll have a long wait before playing in any meaningful games. Next season isn’t expected to start until December at the earliest.