Kirill Kaprizov is Finally Back and Here to Stay


Josh Klopp, Contributor

Although this moment was considered inevitable by most, pessimists have had the past six months to run rampant in the comment sections of Minnesota Wild media. On September 21st, the doubters were put to bed. The Wild announced on Twitter that they signed Kirill Kaprizov to a five-year, $45 million contract. This makes Kaprizov the highest paid second year player in the National Hockey League (NHL) since the salary cap was put in place, and for very good reason.

Kaprizov finished his 2021 pandemic-adjusted campaign as a fan favorite and already one of the most prolific scorers in the history of the franchise. Though it was his first season in the NHL, Kirill Kaprizov has been a captivating name for many years now. The Wild have had the rights to Kaprizov since 2015, when they used the 135th overall pick in the 5th round of the draft to select him. Since then, he has transformed into one of the most exciting prospects in hockey. He did this by twice being the leading scorer in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), which is widely known as the second-best hockey league in the world. This masterclass is what brought him to the forefront of discourse among Minnesota Wild fans. What brought Kaprizov into the mainstream public’s eye was his game-winning overtime goal in the 2018 Olympic Gold Medal game to bring triumph back to his home country of Russia.

As mentioned before, Kaprizov’s rookie year proved that his goal scoring prowess translates very well from Russia to North America. Kaprizov finished his debut season with a stupendous 27 goals and 24 assists. His numbers were more than enough to break almost every franchise record for rookies. Amongst other rookies, he led the league in both goals and points. This makes it abundantly obvious why Kaprizov won the Calder Trophy, which is awarded to the rookie of the year in the NHL. He had the highest percentage of first-place votes (99 of 100) since 1992. It also makes very clear the Wild’s decision to make Kaprizov the highest paid player, based on annual average value (AAV), in franchise history.

The $9 million AAV of Kaprizov’s newly signed contract surpassed the $7.6 million mark that was set by the Wild’s captain, Jared Spurgeon, in September of 2019. The Wild’s General Manager, Bill Guerin, really had no choice but to offer this figure. $9 million a year will be a large bargain if Kaprizov continues down the path he is on, however, there are several factors that some think are evidence of an overpay by Guerin. The most prominent reason is that Kaprizov has only played 55 games in the NHL. These 55 games, because of COVID restrictions, were against only the seven other teams in the West Division. The eye test would tell us that this is not an issue, and his electrifying skating ability and rocket shot will work just fine against the entire league, but there is a lack of concrete evidence that has some fans uneasy about how the Calder winner will fare against the other 24 teams of the NHL. The other cause for concern is that Kaprizov was, for the most part, underwhelming in the playoffs. In the seven-game series against the Vegas Golden Knights, Kaprizov managed only 2 goals and 1 assist. It is easy to qualify this performance as the Golden Knights are a superb defensive team. Nonetheless, he did not play like a star, which he is now paid to be.

This signing was a foregone conclusion due to past comments from Kaprizov stating that he wanted to stay and continue his career in Minnesota. There is also a lot more money to go around in the NHL. That is what was assumed until a rumor was started that the biggest team in Russia, CSKA Moscow, was ready to offer Kaprizov a one-year deal worth $10 million. There was no real proof to show that this was a viable threat, but the rumor spread quickly and gave many Wild fans a decent scare. We now can all see that the fear and speculation was for naught. Especially given Kaprizov’s comments in his recent press conference. It was asked of him if he was considering giving up his NHL dream to return to the KHL, he laughed and responded, “No Chance.” This left only one more question to be answered regarding Kaprizov’s return to Minnesota. What is his vaccination status? To even further relief to fans of the Wild and the Russian alike, Kaprizov had already returned to the United States to be vaccinated and follow the NHL’s rules that require quarantining after returning to the United States. This information was given by Bill Guerin in a lighthearted interview with Michael Russo of The Athletic, where he showed that he was just as relieved and excited for Kaprizov’s return as everyone else.

The Minnesota Wild’s social media team has provided no shortage of Kirill content since he has gotten back on the ice at the Wild’s practice facility in St. Paul. His sights are undoubtedly now set on October 15th, when the Wild will be in Anaheim to kick off their season against the Ducks. That gives Wild about three weeks to relax and rejoice in the fact that their soviet savior has returned to his new home in Minnesota.