That refreshing breeze you’re feeling throughout the Twin Cities on this Monday afternoon may be the giant sigh of relief coming from Wild headquarters.
Wild superstar Kirill Kaprizov is safe and sound in the United States, according to multiple NHL sources. He left Russia late last week by way of Turkey, arrived over the weekend in New York City and is scheduled to fly to Minnesota on Tuesday.
Kaprizov’s return to the State of Hockey comes five weeks before he originally intended. But after alarming reports emerged in the past month that he allegedly purchased a fake military ID card in 2017, and regardless, had his military exemption expire June 30, the Wild, his agent and attorneys in Russia worked hard behind the scenes to get him over him to the United States well in advance of the start of training camp Sept. 22.
The claims that Kaprizov bought a fraudulent military ID card appear to have largely been refuted. Kaprizov is a student of the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, which allows him to defer his military obligations. But it’s unclear if Kaprizov was able to exit Russia because the Wild got him his US work visa or if his representatives were able to get him another military deferment in Russia.
Interest, Kaprizov was caught up in a chilling political game over which the Wild had little to no control over his future. Wild owner Craig Leipold and general manager Bill Guerin both said publicly they would remain nervous until Kaprizov was back safely in the United States.
Once it was determined that Kaprizov was able to leave Russia, the Wild implored him to leave now rather than wait any longer.
Kaprizov was denied entry to the United States last month by way of Dubai and the Wild were dismayed when Kaprizov panicked and decided to return to Russia rather than sit tight and wait for further clarity. But now sources say he’s on US soil and will continue his on- and off-ice training in Minnesota in preparation for the start of the 2022-23 season.
Kaprizov recently underwent surgery in Russia for an undisclosed malady, but sources say he has been given full clearance to return to his workouts and skating routine.
The 25-year-old was drafted in the fifth round in 2015. It took years for the Wild to sign Kaprizov, but when they did, he lived up to the hype of being the next great Russian star, somebody who led the KHL in Scoring twice, won a league championship, captained that country’s 2017 world junior championship team and scored the “Golden Goal” in overtime of the 2018 Olympics.
After being a near-unanimous Calder Trophy winner in 2021, Kaprizov rewrote the Wild’s record book in 2021-22, highlighted by his franchise-record 47 goals, 61 assists and 108 points. He has four years remaining on a five-year, $45 million deal — the most lucrative contract in NHL history for somebody with such little sample size (55 games when he signed the contract last September).
(Photo: Bruce Kluckhohn / NHLI via Getty Images)