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Zulgad: Here we go again: Kirill Kaprizov contract situation causes sinking feeling

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Minnesota Wild’s Kirill Kaprizov (97) handles the puck during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Arizona Coyotes, Friday, March 12, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

Maybe if the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signings had worked as expected, the update on Kirill Kaprizov’s contract situation wouldn’t have been cause for concern. Or if Blair Walsh had just made that field goal in the 2015 playoff game. Or if Gary Anderson had made his field-goal attempt in the 1998 NFC title game. Or if the Twins had been able to win a single playoff game among their past 18.

Wild general manager Bill Guerin and Kaprizov haven’t been part of the Minnesota sports scene long enough to understand this, but when NHL analyst and former goalie Kevin Weekes hit send on this tweet it was, understandably, met with thoughts of the worst-case scenario.

That’s how Minnesota sports fans — at least fans of the four big-league men’s teams in this town — are wired to think. There’s a long list of examples to support why this is the case and the hope has to be that Kaprizov doesn’t join it.

Especially after the length of time the Wild had to wait for Kaprizov.

Kaprizov was drafted by former Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher in the fifth round in 2015, but continued to play in Russia until this season when Guerin (who followed Fletcher and Paul Fenton as the Wild’s GM) got him to Minnesota. The wait for Kaprizov was frustrating at times, but proved to be worth it as he established himself as the Wild’s best player in his rookie season.

The winger is a lock to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year after finishing with a team-leading 27 goals and 51 points in 55 games. Kaprizov’s skill set gives the Wild the type of player they have never had and he should be the centerpiece of a team that should make a Stanley Cup run.

That’s assuming he sticks around.

Michael Russo of The Athletic provided an update on Kaprizov’s contract situation (subscription required) following Weekes’ tweet. Kaprizov’s two-year contract — his deal began to run in 2019-20, despite the fact he didn’t play for the Wild — is up and while he doesn’t have a contract for next season, he also doesn’t have any leverage when it comes to going elsewhere in the NHL. That means his only threat for now is returning to the KHL and CSKA Moscow.

The odds are against Kaprizov not being with the Wild next season, but that doesn’t mean Minnesota sports fans can’t be nervous. Part of the issue in the negotiations between Guerin and Kaprizov’s agent has to do with the term of the contract. Guerin would like to do a seven- or eight-year deal that would lock up Kaprizov into his 30s. The Kaprizov camp, according to Russo, is looking for a two- or three-year bridge deal that would make him an unrestricted free agent in three years at the age of 27.

This would be the worst case for the Wild because it would enable Kaprizov to explore free agency in the prime of his career — or force Guerin to trade him before that, if he felt he couldn’t sign Kaprizov to what almost certainly will be a contract that pays around $10 million per season.

It’s uncertain how far apart the two sides might be at this point on the financial figures, but if Kaprizov continues to play like he did this season, or improves, he’s going to get what he wants from a team, whether that be the Rangers, Kings or the Wild.

And that is why on what had been a quiet Friday night, Weekes’ tweet sent Minnesota sports fans looking for their antacid tablets. An agent leaking information to a reporter or analyst isn’t new and is usually part of the game when he or she doesn’t like how negotiations are going. But when it comes to the Vikings, Twins, Wild and Wolves it is dangerous to assume that the agent is bluffing and that things will workout.

We have seen too much go wrong.