KHL Proving Wild Threat to Minnesota

Will budding NHL star Kirill Kaprizov bolt to Russia?

Tensions in Kaprizov-Minnesota Negotiations Rising

What’s Happening: It’s been a wild summer financially for Minnesota. After the expensive buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the negotiations for their star RFA Kirill Kaprizov took another turn last week. 

With dealings with the Wild seeming unsatisfactory to date, Daily Faceoff reported that Kaprisov has a tentative one-year agreement in place with his former KHL team, CSKA Moscow, for September 1 that would see the Calder Trophy winner earn $10 million. 

Contract expectations are always inflated on either side of any negotiation, but Kaprizov offers an interesting scenario. At 24-years-old, he’s just completed his first NHL season — 55 games of experience, to be exact. He won the Calder Trophy and held his own in the postseason, totaling two goals and an assist in seven games against Vegas. He can also become a UFA in the summer of 2024. With that in mind, term and not money seem to be where both sides are digging in. Reports from The Athletic state Minnesota has offers on the table of between $8 and $9 annually on deals between 6 and 8 years. Kaprizov is said to want that money on a shorter-term contract. 

New Era for Big Money: Wild GM Bill Guerin certainly doesn’t want to negotiate against himself; Kaprizov has no NHL leverage — he has no arbitration rights and can’t be signed to an offer sheet. So perhaps Kaprizov has drummed himself up a little leverage by dangling the rich KHL agreement.

While it’s not common to have your rookie deal up after your inaugural season, Kaprizov isn’t the first elongated RFA contract negotiation we’ve seen recently. Just this off-season, Cale Makar and Miro Heiskanen got big money. Notable pending RFAs around the league include Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Brady Tkachuk, Rasmus Dahlin, among others. We don’t have to go back too far to remember Pierre-Luc Dubois forcing himself out of Columbus or Mitch Marner winning his contract standoff with Toronto. 

The new NHL is where star young players go to get paid. 

Why It Matters: There’s not much doubt that Kaprizov is already a great player and will likely get better. But does he already deserve to get paid among the best players in the league, after just completing his first NHL season? 

Deserve is a big word there. In a hard cap league, players are even more so boxed into figurative contractual spaces. With the players on the wrong side of the pandemic-induced revenue sharing agreement with the owners — causing the cap to stay flat for the next three or so seasons — player salaries are due to also remain mostly flat. On a side note, the NHLPA really has its work cut out for it in the next CBA to make things right with their constituents. 

But for now, players like Kirill Kaprizov keep pushing the financial envelope forward for younger players. If Minnesota isn’t careful, he could be running wild in Moscow come September. 

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