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Wild Owner Wants 5-Year Kirill Deal

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September 17, 2021

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Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold spoke openly with Sports Headliners today about the ongoing contract negotiations with forward Kirill Kaprizov, last season’s NHL Rookie of the Year and a potential superstar for years to come. Leipold said months ago the franchise made an offer to the restricted free agent for eight years in the “neighborhood of $9 million,” but a deal still isn’t in place even though the Wild opens training camp next week.

“That was really an ambitious offer that we made to a player that has played 55 games in the league,” Leipold said. “We know he is a special player. We do believe that. We thought the offer indicated how we believe in him. He wants less years. It doesn’t appear to be so much about the money.”

Leipold and GM Bill Guerin have asked Kaprizov and his agent to show them contracts of comparable NHL players to help discussions. “That’s how we typically do any kind of negotiation is that we talk about comparables, and we’re not getting any comparables from them,” Leipold said.

The Wild are not insisting on an eight-year commitment. “…I think really the issue right now on the table is how long will the contract be and our position is it needs to be at least five years,” Leipold said.

Would the Wild negotiate the deal down to three years? “I can assure you we will never do a three-year deal,” Leipold said. “That will not happen.”

The negotiations have been drawn out and frustrating. Will the club consider trading Kaprizov? “There’s never been discussion on that,” Leipold said. “I don’t think so. We’re not going to trade him. He’s our guy. We’ve been committed to Kirill now for years (drafted in 2015). We want him to be in a Wild sweater as long as we can have him.”

Kirill Kaprizov

Leipold is hopeful that a five-year deal at $9 millon annually could get done soon. “I have no reason to believe that he wouldn’t be in training camp, right? I can’t understand what is holding this up. The offer we have is on the table, it is incredibly fair. I don’t think anyone is going to question that—whether $9 million for five years is fair or not fair. You can look at what the best players in the league are making, we’re right there. I don’t understand what is holding the signing of this negotiation up.”

Leipold believes it’s time for flexibility from Kaprizov and his agent. “We’ve already given on the number of years…and we’re asking him to make movement as well. The hope is that he will and he’ll recognize he wants to be with his team, and wants to be with it long term, and wants to win a (Stanley) Cup here. We love the way this team is developing now with our younger players. This is a good time to be a Wild player and a Wild fan.”

The 24-year-old Kaprizov captivated the State of Hockey with his offensive skill set and electric play last season. He led the Wild and NHL rookies with 51 points in 55 games last season. The 5-foot-11, 201-pound forward also led the team and league rookies in goals, even-strength goals (19), power-play goals (8) and shots on goal (157).

Worth Noting

Think Iowa isn’t a college football developmental program? The Hawkeyes had 34 alums (same as Clemson) on NFL opening day rosters, per a news release from the league. The Iowa total is bested by only five other schools including No. 1 Alabama (54) and No. 2 Ohio State (50).

Ex-Gophers in the league heading into the opening NFL weekend totaled 12, according to the Daily Gopher. That number included former Minnesota QB Chris Streveler, now a backup with the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cardinals team that plays the Minnesota Vikings team Sunday is the most experienced in the NFL averaging 5.47 years and 16 players age 30 and over.

The Vikings average 4.07, with eight players age 30 and over.

The Front Offices Sport newsletter reported NFL viewership numbers were up seven percent for the league’s opening weekend. “The NFL averaged 17.4 million viewers per game over traditional and online platforms, bouncing back from its dip last year — the first decline it had experienced in three seasons,” the newsletter wrote Wednesday.

Sportsmediawatch.com reported the September 2 Minnesota-Ohio State game on FOX had the largest TV audience on record for a game on the opening Thursday of the college football season. The telecast averaged 6.3 million viewers, with the previous high 5.13 million for Ohio State-Indiana on ESPN four years ago.

Word is NFL scouts are showing interest in former Chaska and North Dakota State wide receiver Sean Engel, now a senior at Augustana. The 6-foot-5 Engel was all-NSIC as a junior. He has a business administration degree and now is majoring in business marketing.

The first-year Division I football St. Thomas Tommies are 1-0 but tomorrow play at Northern Iowa (FCS-ranked No. 16.) The Panthers, who lost by only six points earlier this month to FBS-power Iowa State, will play a return game at St. Thomas in 2024.

Forward Nick Bjugstad on his promise to Minnesota Wild fans: “I ‘ll do my best every day to bring the Stanley Cup to St. Paul.”

Playing its home schedule at the Wild’s TRIA Rink practice facility this fall and winter will be the Minnesota Whitecaps of the rebranded Premier Hockey Federation (formerly the National Women’s Hockey League).

“The move is designed to brand the league based on the skill and talent of its athletes as opposed to their gender,” a Whitecaps spokesperson said via email. “It is the first professional women’s sports league in North America to lift the word ‘women’s’ out of its title—a potential game-changer for other women’s professional leagues.”

The Whitecaps open their season November 6 in Boston against the Pride, then have the home opener November 20 versus the same team in the six-franchise league.

I have known Minnesota Twins legend Tony Oliva since the 1970s but until recently I don’t think I ever told him how much I enjoyed watching him play ball. I ran into him at a local driving range when he was tuning up his game for a tourney.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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