Kirill Kaprizov still hasn’t signed a new contract for the upcoming season. This much we know.
While it’s still expected that he will eventually agree to an NHL contract, there is uncertainty because he could always make the leap to the KHL. He could spur the top league in the world to return home and play in Moscow, though it still seems far-fetched given that Kaprizov dominated at the highest level in the world.
So, if he is so talented at this level, why is a deal not finished?
The Athletic’s Michael Russo has reported that the Wild’s initial offers were between $8 and $9 million per season, albeit at a long term of seven or eight years. He reported that Kaprizov and his agent, Paul Theofanous, are looking for a shorter-term deal to cash in with an even bigger deal somewhere down the line.
Needless to say, although the Wild are willing to make him one of the highest-paid players in the league — not to mention in the history of the franchise — his camp isn’t ready to sign a deal. Kaprizov’s agent has some history of playing hardball with teams, including recently. Theofanous also represents Artemi Panarin and helped orchestrate the Bread Man’s departure to the New York Rangers. That’s not to say each player negotiated the same way, but the connection is worth exploring.
After two years with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Theofanous and Panarin turned down an 8-year, $96 million extension and became a free agent. He ultimately signed a 7-year, $81.5 million contract with the Rangers.
There are some significant differences, though. Panarin had already had a bridge deal signed with the Chicago Blackhawks, who traded him to Columbus. Chicago had negotiated a 2-year, $12 million deal to take him through 2018-19. Conversely, Kaprizov is still a restricted free agent and cannot sign with any NHL team he chooses.
Aside from the status in contracts and age, Panarin had a much longer NHL résumé. He had four established seasons of consistent point production and a relatively clean bill of health, missing just six games in those four seasons. He also was nearly a point-per-game player with 320 points in 322 games for the Blackhawks and Blue Jackets combined. On the other hand, Kaprizov has a smaller track record. He has 51 points through 55 games in one abbreviated NHL season. Granted, he was electric and made the Wild an entertaining and winning team in that short span.
However, Minnesota should be certain that Kaprizov can sustain his play from last year. The Wild understand he is a generational talent and are prepared to make him one of the best-paid players in the NHL. The hangup is term.
In an increasingly player-driven sports culture, the NHL is gradually becoming more like the NBA. While players aren’t building super teams in the NHL yet, they realize their worth and will attempt to maximize their earning potential with contracts that allow them to do so. However, players don’t have much say in where they can play until they reach their late 20s. That’s not to say Kaprizov doesn’t want to be in Minnesota, but what he and his agent are trying to do is to get paid without sacrificing the ability to hit unrestricted free agency. As is often said in the NHL, the league is a business, and Kaprizov’s camp is treating it that way.
Every player and their agent has the right to work out a fair deal, but the two sides eventually need to find some sort of compromise. For this to work out for Minnesota, Kaprizov must desire to play in the NHL, knowing he’s about to enter his prime and will get to play against the best players in the world.
It may not be Panarin’s situation, but Kaprizov’s agent has been there before and he knows what it takes to get his client a great deal. It’s just a matter of time before we learn what the compromise between the team and player really is and what it will mean for the Wild in the coming years.