Despite rumors earlier this off-season that Kirill Kaprizov, one of the top prospects of the Minnesota Wild, was potentially looking to make to the jump to the NHL, the young Russian scorer ended up re-signing in the KHL. The 20-year-old inked a three-year deal with CSKA Moscow of the KHL, with the new contract finally being made official yesterday. The term of the deal surprised many, as – barring a player buyout – Kaprizov’s highly-anticipated NHL debut would not be until 2020. However, in an interview today with Soviet Sports (link in Russian), Kaprizov lent some reasoning to his new contract. It seems that the Wild were not all that interested in bringing him overseas this off-season after all.
When the reporter asked “Minnesota showed great interest in you?” (translated), Kaprizov replied honestly that he has not had any direct contact with the team. He stated that Wild representatives last spoke with his agent at the 2017 World Juniors, but had not reached out since. Kaprivoz’s understanding was that Minnesota was simply waiting for his arrival “one day”, which flies in the face of speculation that the team had reached out to the 20-year-old this summer. While some have opined that the negotiations were effected by outside intervention, seemingly supported by Kaprizov’s previous reluctance to confirm a new KHL contract and an assumption that he was waiting for an offer from Minnesota, Kamprizov had the chance to say as much today and failed to do so.
While Kaprizov was just only a fifth-round pick in 2015, he has already greatly outperformed his draft slot. At just 19 years old last season, Kaprizov registered 42 points in 49 games for the KHL’s Salavat Yulaev Ufa, second only on the teams to former NHLer Linus Omark, and then added another 12 points in seven games in an impressive World Junior showing. Why then did Minnesota not reach out to the high-scoring youngster? Kaprizov was asked in his interview if he had given any thought to the difficult task of breaking into a Wild top six of Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Jason Zucker, to which he of course replied that he had not thought of since Minnesota had not yet offered him the chance to play for the team, but the reported does make a valid point. Even with Alex Tuch and Erik Haula now in Vegas, Kaprizov stood little chance of cracking that top six and may have even struggled to beat out Charlie Coyle, rookie Luke Kunin, or recent additions Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis for a top nine role. Rather than waste Kaprizov on a checking line role or put him in the AHL, it seems likely that the Wild would simply rather let him continue to develop in the KHL. As for the three-year term, Minnesota and Kaprizov both realize that getting out of KHL contracts is relatively easy and should a spot open up for him sooner than three years, don’t be surprised to see the two sides finally come together. Even if he does play out his contract with CSKA, the reporter notes that Kaprizov would still be only 23 years old, the same age that Artemi Panarin came over from Russia and won the Calder Trophy.
The bridge is far from burnt between Kaprizov and the Wild, but it is interesting to note that the information surrounding their relationship appears to have been way off. For now, Kaprizov will continue to be just a “prospect” of the Wild, but with a shallow pipeline of talent in Minnesota and a point-per-game player continuing to grow and develop in arguably the second best hockey league in the world, it seems likely that these two sides will be joined sooner rather than later.