The Kirill Kaprizov standoff has ended. The Russian-winger will suit up with the Wild this season after signing a massive extension. That will be my first take of the week. I’ll also report on new jersey patches, the league’s outlook on full arenas, and a few other interesting tidbits.
1. Kaprizov Signs Extension
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For a brief moment, it seemed unsure if Kirill Kaprizov would be back with the Minnesota Wild this season. But, Kaprizov and Minnesota agreed to a five-year extension worth $45 million, which is a $9 million AAV. Kaprizov is the reigning Calder Trophy winner and put up an extraordinary line of 27-24-51 last year in only 55 games.
That’s a pretty hefty deal. ESPN.com had this to say about it:
The team announced the deal, which carries an average annual value of $9 million through the 2025-26 season, an extraordinary cap number for a player with just 55 NHL games to his credit. That’s the highest cap number for any Minnesota player, and it’s the sixth-highest cap number for any NHL player 24 years old or younger. It is the 18th highest among all NHL forwards.
At times it didn’t seem like the deal could get done. Rumors swirled about Kaprizov returning to the KHL, increasing his leverage. In the end, there was no way the Wild couldn’t get this deal done. Kaprizov is arguably the most exciting player the Wild have had in their short history. They just ended the disappointing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter era this summer and hit the lottery with Kaprizov. He electrified the smaller crowds at the Xcel Energy Center last season and the Wild will need to build around him.
The Wild probably would have wanted to sign Kaprizov to a longer deal, however, the shorter deal increases their chances of Kaprizov living up to it. This deal will probably work out well for Minnesota, but it doesn’t matter, they had no choice but to bring Kaprizov back.
2. Caps First to Sell Jersey Ad Space
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The Washington Capitals made history last week becoming the first NHL team to sell advertising space on their jerseys. The Capitals are also the first big-four sports team in North America to agree to a jersey sponsorship deal with a gambling company, partnering with Caesars Entertainment.
The deal will begin during the 2022-23 season. The patch will be 3 in by 3.5 in and will be placed in the upper right chest area. Selling ad space on helmets and jerseys began last season as the league looked to recoup some of the revenue lost due to COVID-19.
Sponsorships on jerseys have long been a topic of debate in the U.S. While they’re dominant overseas, sometimes too dominant. None of the big four sports leagues in North America took part until the NBA in 2017. The NFL and MLB have yet to do so. The MLS did immediately.
I don’t mind them as long as they’re not too overbearing. I like the patch on the Capitals’ jerseys and I think it blends in. Anything that brings in more revenue for teams is good. It gives owners more money to spend on things that will benefit the fans like arena upgrades and salary. That’s not always the case, but it surely won’t hurt the viewing experience and that’s what matters.
The fact that this ad is gambling-related means nothing to me. Gambling is massive in North America now as it’s regulated in many states. I like that gambling is legal and regulated because it means that I don’t have to place bets on sketchy offshore websites and I can be confident I can withdraw my money when I want to. I’m all in on this.
Please gamble responsibly.
3. 30/32 Arenas Set to Be Full for Start of Season
The COVID-19 pandemic still continues to rage, but fans will be allowed to return in full to 30 of the 32 NHL arenas this coming season. The only two teams that will not be at full capacity to start the season are the Montreal Canadiens and the Vancouver Canucks. Canada has been stricter in its measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 compared to their border mates in the U.S.
While delta variant numbers remain high, this is good for the NHL. As a fan, I’m excited to return to arenas this season. I’m hoping to see a few games in Chicago at the United Center or back home in Detroit at Little Caesars Arena. As someone concerned with public safety, I’m hopeful that allowing large groups of people to congregate indoors that COVID-19 numbers don’t spike. The delta variant spreads quickly and has prolonged the pandemic.
Keep wearing your masks so we can end the pandemic and return to NHL arenas without having to worry about getting sick.
4. Eichel Stripped of “C,” Will Begin Season on IR
The Jack Eichel experience in Buffalo is coming to an end, but not without a last bit of drama. Eichel was stripped of the captaincy last week in Buffalo as he still wants out of upstate New York. Eichel also failed his physical at the start of training camp so he will be placed on IR.
To catch you up, Eichel suffered a herniated disk in his neck last season which prevented him from playing the last 33 games. Eichel’s camp wants to go through with a procedure the Sabres are not comfortable with. Because of the disagreement, Eichel is yet to have surgery and is unable to play. The disagreement also seems to be the straw that has broken the camel’s back between the two sides and Eichel demanded a trade.
It’s too bad to see Eichel’s tenure in Buffalo end like this. Sabres fans are great and so is the town of Buffalo. They deserve so much more than this. Eichel does, too. He should be able to receive the surgery he’s most comfortable with, it’s his body. If I were the owner of the Sabres, I would be livid. Not just because Eichel wants out, because if the team was better, he would be more inclined to stay.
Eichel hasn’t played a single playoff game in his career. It’s clear he’s fed up with losing, as most would be. It’s a shame that Buffalo can’t build a winner and that with Eichel gone, there’s no telling when they will.
5. Malkin to Be Sidelined for Two Months
The Pittsburgh Penguins will begin the 2021-22 season without their two biggest stars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby had surgery on September 8 so it was known he would miss time. Makin just had knee surgery and will miss the first two months of the season.
That’s a big blow for the Penguins. Pittsburgh is coming off a surprising season where they finished first in the MassMutual East division ahead of Washington and Boston. I’m sure Penguins fans were hoping to repeat and make another Stanley Cup run.
This is also the last year of Malkin’s eight-year, $76 million contract. He is 35-years-old and is still a point-per-game player when healthy. The Penguins have a small window to win with him, but it’s closing fast.
As much as I dislike the Penguins, I’ve always liked watching Malkin play. I’m hoping he recovers quickly and returns to form this season. ■