In this edition of Minnesota Wild News & Rumors, we’re nearing the beginning of training camp and the NHL season, but first, the team is hosting a prospect camp that includes some competition. If you’re interested in development camp, there are a few players you should keep your eyes on. However, the most important item on the agenda is still Kirill Kaprizov and his contract talks. What is the status of negotiations, and is there any optimism?
Prospect Camp Begins
Even without the dry, dad-like humor, it’s true. Prospect camp has begun, which means we’re getting closer to watching NHL hockey. The Wild are hosting the Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase that includes three practices and two games against the Central Division rival Chicago Blackhawks. There will be tons to report over this short period, but most people will focus on the players. There are many good options to choose from, but the main ones are Marco Rossi, Matthew Boldy, and Calen Addison.
Explore everything hockey with THW’s Hockeypedia pages.
I recently argued that the Wild need to promote Rossi to the NHL full-time. Essentially, he’s an out-of-this-world playmaker with an uncanny ability to move the puck around the offensive zone and maintain possession in small areas, especially on an odd-man rush. He had terrifying health problems last season and an incident with the coronavirus; however, now that he’s fully healthy, the Wild coaching staff should not hesitate to put him in the lineup. All I care about at this point in his development is that he gets playing time. He’s proven he’s better than most players his age, if not all of them.
Boldy is another exciting prospect, but not for the same reasons as Rossi. The 2019 12th-overall pick scored 31 points in 22 games with Boston College last season and moved onto the American Hockey League (AHL), where he scored at over a point-per-game pace with 18 points in 14 games. He was also an integral part of the USA World Junior Championship team, where, again, he scored seven points in seven games.
Boldy won’t kill you with his speed, but his deceptiveness and ability to create chances with the puck make him lethal any time he’s on the ice. His shot from the right circle on the power play makes him an asset to any special teams unit, and his vision goes hand in hand with that. Speaking of hands, it’s another one of his strengths. His stickhandling is among the best in the 2019 draft class, and he can fake out a goaltender with ease, according to his film. He will have to earn a spot on the roster, but the team would get better if he got a chance.
Addison is one of the more underrated prospects, but you won’t still be sleeping on him after you read this article. He was drafted 53rd overall in the 2018 NHL Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins but was promptly moved with Alex Galchenyuk to the Wild in the Jason Zucker trade. In the 2019-20 season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League (WHL), he scored 52 points in 50 games and followed that up with 22 points in 31 games in the AHL.
Oh, did I mention he’s a defenseman? Addison’s defensive game has some flaws, but his offense is why he’s touted so highly among scouts. He’s a mobile blueliner who can work smoothly in the offensive zone. The chances of him making the roster this season are lower than Rossi and Boldy simply because there are fewer open spots on defense. However, it’s still possible.
Those three are the players to watch and keep track of during the showcase games. They have the highest potential and the highest likelihood of making the roster. They’re also entertaining to watch, and a taste of the future is always sweet.
Kaprizov’s Contract Situation
All of the talk this offseason has been about restricted free agent contracts. Andrei Svechnikov of the Carolina Hurricanes got his bag when he inked an eight-year agreement for a whopping $7.75 million average annual value (AAV). We even saw the first successful offer sheet signing since Dustin Penner in 2007. However, some would argue that the best players have yet to be signed, starting with Elias Pettersson. Contract talks between Pettersson and the Vancouver Canucks have slowed to a halt.
It’s the same situation with Kaprizov. Negotiations have been pretty quiet for the most part, which doesn’t mean anything good. The only positive news to come out of it is that the likelihood that he heads back to Russia is slim to none. Of course, most people expected that because the NHL can pay him more to play in a better league. But there was still speculation that it was an option.
The most significant news came from The Athletic‘s Michael Russo who pointed out that Kaprizov will not be on time for training camp even if he signs a contract in the next couple of days.
With #mnwild players set to officially report to camp next Wednesday and on-ice sessions set to begin a week from today, even if Kirill Kaprizov signs at this point, he won’t, at a minimum, be in camp on time due to work visa obligations/7-day quarantine.— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) September 16, 2021
Despite the obvious differences, this reminds me of the William Nylander situation with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Nylander holds the record for the longest contract hold out in the salary cap era. Although there have been rumblings about the AAV for some time now, management and Kaprizov’s camp don’t seem to be getting any closer. It’s a matter of time before negotiations get serious for both parties. It’s a game of chicken at this point.
New Play-by Play Announcer
On Sept. 16, the Wild PR team announced that Joe O’Donnell will be calling most games during the 2021-22 season. Bob Kurtz will be working the part-time shift.
The #mnwild today named @WildJoeRadio radio play-by-play announcer. He will call a majority of games this season on @KFAN1003. Bob Kurtz will call a select # of home games. Tom Reid (analyst) and @RadioFalness (executive producer/studio host) will continue in their current roles.— Minnesota Wild PR (@mnwildPR) September 16, 2021
Kurtz is 74 years old and nearing the end of his broadcasting career, so it was time to train and teach some new blood in the booth. Enter O’Donnell, who has spent over a decade announcing games in the minors for the Wild. He was always next in line, but he never had the chance to shine, given Kurtz’s incredible track record and tenured career. He came up a few times to call NHL games and earned great reviews. They weren’t frequent enough, though. As they say, in the end, hard work pays off.
TV Broadcast Announcement
On the television side of broadcasting, the 2021-22 schedule on ESPN, TNT, and many other platforms partnered with the NHL, is out. Minnesotians will be excited to learn that the Wild have the highest number of nationally televised games (tied with ten other teams) this season at 13.
Number of US National TV games this season by team (exclusively on ABC, ESPN, TNT, Hulu/ESPN+)— NHL News (@PuckReportNHL) September 16, 2021
– BOS, CHI, COL, LAK, MIN, NYR, PHI, PIT, SEA, STL, TBL, WSH all have the most with 13
– CGY, OTT, WPG have zero (0)
All out of market games to be streamed on ESPN+ from local telecasts pic.twitter.com/GINw93rNlf
Minnesota wouldn’t be called “the State of Hockey” if it wasn’t a big hockey market. Seeing them get this many nationally broadcast games should surprise no one, but if the Wild don’t do well, fans of the teams that won’t be nationally televised will likely be outraged. Either way, you will be seeing the boys in green on significant networks this season, including an outdoor game. Be excited, Wild fans.