If there were cameras inside the Wild executive offices in St. Paul, you would probably catch Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold, president Matt Majka and general manager Bill Guerin among others going on a rant similar to this one from the movie Mystery, Alaska — except they would replace the word “town” with “league.”
To clarify, you could catch them on that kind of a rant when they got the indication that the NHL will not allow players who sign entry-level contracts to participate in the remaining games of the 2019-20 regular season, whenever that resumes.
According to Michael Russo of The Athletic, the Wild were informed that there is likely “zero chance” Kaprizov would be allowed to play in the remainder of the 2019-20 season. The NHL will not be allowing players who signed entry-level contracts after the pause to play, making them wait until the 2020-21 season.
That collective sigh you just heard was from the Wild fanbase.
This comes just a couple weeks after the NHL’s proposed Draft lottery for early-June, which basically gave the Wild no chance at winning the No. 1 overall pick despite being on the outside looking in at the playoff picture.
For a league that loves to promote “competitive balance,” they sure are making it difficult for teams stuck in limbo like the Wild.
By not allowing players who signed entry-level contracts to play in the remainder of the season, the league is once again proving how short-sighted they are. Sure, the argument can be made for not allowing undrafted free agents who sign to play, but what about the drafted players who are on the reserve list and would be eligible to sign and play at any time?
Let’s repeat that. Players who are on the reserve list, like Kaprizov, are eligible to sign and play at any time during the season or postseason.
The NHL decided to walk back on their own rule in the middle of all of this. Why, do you ask? Because they don’t want “ringers” to come into the remainder of this season.
Ringers? That’s a fascinating word selection. Because basically that’s what’s happened in years previous with the reserve list rule and being allowed to sign undrafted free agents.
Remember when Cale Makar signed with Colorado after the NCAA season ended and he played in the postseason? Yep, that’s a ringer. In 2012, Chris Kreider joined with the Rangers after college and played the regular season and postseason. Hey, guess what, that’s a ringer!
The league is basically saying they do not want anyone to upset the competition that was going to take place for the remainder of the season had it gone on as scheduled. Essentially, they say ‘since Kaprizov would not have played the remainder of the season with you under normal circumstances, he won’t be allowed to do so now.’
But the Wild are not the only team in this predicament. Alexander Romanov signed on with Montreal. Grigori Denisenko signed on with Florida. Jack Dugan signed with the Golden Knights.
All could easily fill into their respective rosters once the season resumes. But no, they are ringers.
Kaprizov has been the star in the KHL for the past couple of seasons. His game could easily translate over to the NHL and he could continue on with that stardom in a league and city that could use starpower. This is the NHL, a league that can’t get out of its own way when it comes to properly promoting its stars.
By not allowing Kaprizov and others to play in the remainder of the season, the league is preventing their debuts until December when the 2020-21 is reportedly on schedule to begin. In that scenario, some players, like Kaprizov, could go back overseas and play a year before starting in the NHL. Because who wants to go between March and December without playing?
If you are the Wild, are you comfortable with Kaprizov going back over to the KHL for the possibility of playing 2020-21 in Russia again? Bill Guerin is not concerned publicly, but you have to think this is a thought in the back of his mind.
“It’s a viable concern, but I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it,” Guerin told The Athletic. “I know Kirill wants to come and play in Minnesota as soon as possible. But, I guess, I can’t say 100 percent that this won’t come into play. But he has made clear to me that he wants to be here very much.”
For a team and fanbase that has waited five years for a talented player that they might not have seen in a Wild uniform before, nothing has come easy. But now that the seas have parted and the path for Kaprizov to come to the NHL has been unblocked, the NHL has stepped in and provided another roadblock.
Short-sighted moves from a short-sighted league.