Blake’s Takes: Kaprizov to KHL?

This week’s main headline is Kirill Kaprizov and the Minnesota Wild’s contractual stalemate. Will the Russian phenom really return to the KHL? I’ll add my two cents this week on the matter.

I’ll also continue catching up on a few of the major trades and acquisitions from the last few weeks.

Have a great Tuesday!

1. Could Kaprizov Return to Russia?

Kirill Kaprizov has a tentative contract in place with CSKA Moscow to return to his old club in the KHL for one year that will pay him $10 million. The 24-year-old is currently an RFA that is still unsigned by the Minnesota Wild. The Wild have reportedly offered Kaprizov contracts with seven and eight-year terms in the $8 million – $9 million range. Kaprizov is looking to go the Auston Matthews route and sign a shorter-term deal at a higher AAV, which would increase his long-term earning potential.

According to this article in The Athletic, it would not be ideal for the Wild to agree to a short-term deal.

Wild general manager Bill Guerin has indicated for a month that he’s willing to compromise by signing Kaprizov to a mid-range deal believed to be five or six years. However, Guerin still prefers not to sign Kaprizov to three or fewer years because the star forward can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2024.

Kaprizov of course is coming off one of the better rookie years in recent memory. He scored 27 goals and added another 24 assists, good for 51 points, in only 57 games. He quickly became the best player for the Wild and surely the most hyped player they’ve had in, well, ever. If the Wild lose out on keeping Kaprizov, that would be the biggest tease of all time. According to the same article, their GM is optimistic they’ll keep Kaprizov and sign him to an extension.

This has to be gutting for the Wild and their fans. They finally obtain a player of Kaprizov’s caliber and there’s a chance he might not return after one year. It’s incredibly rare that a team is in this position with a rookie. Entry-level contracts are three years in length, and then a player becomes an RFA. According to Sportsnet, “players automatically become UFA when their contract expires if they are 27 years of age or older (as of July 1), or have 7 accrued NHL seasons.” Kaprizov is already 24-years-old, so any contract shorter than three years would make him a UFA at the end of the contract.

I have always been pro-player and I would encourage any player to get their bag. I just feel for Wild fans. The conditions at play are so rare. This would never happen for a North American player because they would always want to play in the NHL over the KHL. Of course, the KHL is much more enticing for Kaprizov as he’s from Russia and played many years there. It’s not uncommon for Russian players to want to return to Russia to play in front of their families. Pavel Datsyuk did it and Alex Ovechkin has stated many times he wants to finish his career in his home country.

I hope that Kaprizov returns to Minnesota. Regardless, he’ll do so a very, very rich man.

2. Carter Hart Extended in Philly

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Carter Hart and the Philadelphia Flyers agreed on a three-year contract extension yesterday. The deal has an AAV of $3,979,000. Hart will be 25-years-old when the deal expires and he will again be an RFA.

This deal is a tad smaller than I would have expected. It’s clear the Flyers are worried about Hart’s poor performance last season when he went 9-11-5, with a 3.67 GAA, and a .877 sv%. Hart had posted a sub-3.00 GAA and save percentages north of .900 in both of his first two seasons. I would have thought he would earn at least $4 million a season. That being said, Jordan Binnington was only able to rake in a two-year extension with a $4.4 million AAV after he led the Blues to a Stanley Cup as a rookie.

If I were Philadelphia and believed in Hart, I would have bought low. He is coming off a bad season. I would have looked to lock him in long-term for a low AAV. Maybe a contract in the range of 5-6 years with a $4 million AAV. Obviously, Hart would never take that deal. He doesn’t need to. He’ll have plenty of chances to prove last season was an aberration and will look to improve his stock.

It will be interesting to see what type of deal Hart nets after this one expires.

3. Shesterkin Extended in NYC

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Igor Shesterkin has signed a four-year extension with the New York Rangers. The deal will carry an AAV of $5.66 million. Shesterkin will be a 29-year-old UFA when the deal expires. The Russian-born goaltender is coming off a great season as a first-time starter. He went 16-14-3, with a 2.62 GAA, a .916 sv%, and 2 shutouts.

This is the type of deal I think Carter Hart could have signed if he had come off of a solid season. Shesterkin is three years older and was closer to unrestricted free agency, so he had much more leverage than Hart did. However, Shesterkin has only started 43 NHL games in net, compared to Hart’s 95.

Regardless, this is a solid investment for the Rangers. $5.66 million is a good number for a starting goaltender. If $5.66 million can grow into the role and improve, he’ll be a bargain when this deal expires. The Rangers better hope so, because they can’t afford another disappointing season like last year. I’m buying low on the Rangers considering they have Artemi Panarin in his prime and two top-two picks, Kappo Kakko and Alexis Lafrenière, still to blossom.

4. Seth Jones Traded to Chicago, Extended Immediately

 

 
 
 
 
 
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This happened a few weeks ago, but Seth Jones is now officially a Chicago Blackhawk. Jones was traded to Chicago along with the Jackets’ first-round pick (used to pick Nolan Allan), and a 2022-sixth round pick in exchange for Adam Boqvist, a 2021 first-round pick (used to pick Cole Sillinger), and a first-round pick in 2022 unless it’s one of the top two picks. If the pick isn’t in the top two, it conveys in 2023.

Chicago immediately extended Jones for another eight years with a $9.5 million AAV. The 26-year-old is in the last year of his contract, so he is locked in with Chicago for nine total years. When his extension begins, Jones will be the fourth-highest paid defenseman by AAV, behind Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, and Zachary Werenski, who just signed an extension. Jones will be five years younger than both Karlsson and Doughty and is three years older than Werenski.

It’s clear Columbus wanted to prioritize Werenski and felt they couldn’t sign Jones for a number they felt they could spend. Now that Werenski’s extension is finalized, it’s clear why. They were never going to sign both players and pay two defensemen almost $20 million total. Both players have had similar careers so far, but Werenski’s youth gives him a slight edge. Jones has averaged 0.59 PPG over his eight-year career. Werenski sits at 0.56 PPG over his five-year career.

What this will do is give the Blackhawks a chance to build around Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews before it’s too late. Jones is smack dab in his prime and he will give the Blackhawks a chance to be competitive again sooner rather than later. If things don’t work out in Chicago in the next few seasons, Jones might be looking to finish his contract in another city.

Selfishly, I’m excited because it will be easier for me to see Jones play in-person. At least I’m a winner!

 

5. Krejci to Return to the Czech Republic

 

 
 
 
 
 
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In sad news, David Krejci will return to the Czech Republic to finish his career, leaving the Boston Bruins, the only NHL team he ever played for. Krejci will finish his NHL career having played in 962 games, scoring 215 goals, assisting on another 515, and totaling 730 points. He also helped the Bruins to three Stanley Cup Final appearances, winning it all in 2011.

Krejci won’t be remembered the same way Zdeno Chara or Patrice Bergeron might be, but he was the engine that drove this Bruins team over the last 14 years. The 35-year-old was a constant contributor for Boston, playing a great 200-foot game. It was only two years ago he tied a career-high of 73 points.

I don’t know if Krejci will have his number 46 hung in the rafters of the TD Garden, but he undoubtedly left his mark on the Boston Bruins. We should all be happy for him that he gets to finish his career in his home country. ■

Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995.

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