Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League made a sorrowful announcement via Twitter on Wednesday:
While that news is disappointing for players in the midst of playing for the Gagarin Cup, one league’s loss may be another team’s gain, as KHL players on expiring contracts were previously free to sign with their NHL teams on May 1. This news is sure to prick up the ears of Wild fans, for KHL’s leading regular-season goal-scorer and point-per-game playoff performer Kirill Kaprizov may finally be free to join the team that drafted him in 2015.
If the NHL season resume (which, at this point, is a really big if), and if the Wild make the playoffs (in whatever form that takes), could it be possible to have Kirill Kaprizov on the Wild’s postseason roster?
If the Montreal Canadien’s draft pick Alexander Romanov is any indication, there’s definitely a chance.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun tweeted Wednesday that Romanov’s agent Dan Milstein was optimistic that his client could join the Habs sooner rather than later:
Alexander Romanov's agent Dan Milstein just told me that it's possible, if Montreal wanted, that his client signs with the Habs for the remaining of the season (if there is an NHL season resumption) rather than wait for next season. Re-signing at CSKA Moscow also still an option. https://t.co/BYZGWwNGWE— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) March 25, 2020
There are a couple of hang-ups with this plan, not only for Romanov, but for Kaprizov as well.
First, the NHL released a memo to teams (as reported by LeBrun, among others) that contracts signed during the COVID-19 pause, even after May 1 (or July 1, the normal start of the NHL league year) will currently not take effect until the 2020-21 season.
However, LeBrun seems to think that decision might be flexible, depending on how long the league is paused, or if it resumes at all:
Was just reminded of the NHL memo that went out saying any new signing of contracts have to be for 2020-21 at the earliest. Can't sign any player for this season. Whether that changes over the next few months depending on whether there's a season or not, we'll see. https://t.co/a0L58Sxk5M— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) March 25, 2020
Second, Kaprizov and Romanov might each decide that the best thing for them is to stay close to home during the global uncertainty and re-sign with their current KHL team, CSKA Moskow. Such a decision would be understandable during the current climate, but would be an absolute gut-punch to the Wild and their fans, who have been waiting for their superstar to cross the pond for a long, long time.
This all may be a moot point, for while the NHL is currently talking with teams about July and August ice availability with the intention of resuming the 2019-20 season, it seems like decisions related to COVID-19 quarantines and social distancing are changing week-to-week, day-to-day and even moment-to-moment (exhibit A: the
2020 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo).
But considering the NHL is just as invested as the Wild are in infusing their league with talented, marketable and highly-touted players from the Russia, risking losing them to more long-term KHL deals might just force the NHL to re-examine their policies, especially if the season isn’t scheduled to resume until late summer or early fall. Because if play doesn’t resume for six months or more, there may not be a sense in freezing rosters when the players have been out of practice for that long, injuries have healed (or new, offseason ones have occurred), and the world itself is a different place.
We’ll have to keep waiting to find out what will happen. For Wild fans, that’s something we’re very familiar with at this point.