Minnesota Wild fans have been waiting for years to see elite Russian prospect Kirill Kaprizov join the team in St. Paul. His contract with the Kontinental Hockey League has officially expired, and once he hires an agent, he will finally be able to sign an entry-level deal with the Wild — just in time to potentially (!) help the Wild make a playoff push if the 2019-20 season resumes.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be throwing a wrench into those plans. According to a report from Michael Russo of The Athletic, there is likely “zero chance” that Kaprizov will be able to suit up for the Wild this summer, even if the season does resume.
When the NHL paused the 2019-20 season, it was made clear to teams that free agents (mainly college and European players) would be unable to sign contracts with a start date earlier than the 2020-21 season. Nearly two full months later, the league still does not plan on changing its stance.
On one hand, this could actually be somewhat of a good thing for the Wild. If Kaprizov were able to sign an entry-level contract starting this season, he would essentially burn an entire year of his deal for the sake of only playing a tiny portion of the season. With the NHL not allowing free agents to sign a contract with a start date earlier than next season, though, the Wild will be guaranteed two full years of Kaprizov.
However, this could also cause a significant issue — Kaprizov signing another KHL contract. While Kaprizov has been rather forthright about his desire to join the Wild, it’s possible this delay could cause him to stay in Russia for another year. This course of action seems pretty unlikely, but certainly not entirely out of the question.
Still, Wild general manager Bill Guerin doesn’t seem too worried about it.
“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.”
It’s still unclear if the NHL will resume the 2019-20 season, and there’s even some uncertainty regarding the start of the 2020-21 season. But if there’s even a glimmer of positivity to take away from this, it’s that the possibility of Kaprizov wearing a Wild sweater in Minnesota’s next regular-season game remains high — even if the microscopic chance of him returning to the KHL exists.