I touched base with Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher on a number of subjects, including some Twitter rumors on Kirill Kaprizov and Tim Murray and an update on his just completed meetings and how they may affect the Wild's upcoming plans.
1. There are a few unsubstantiated Twitter rumors that Kirill Kaprizov, the Wild's hot-shot 2015 fifth-round pick, is closing in on a long-term extension with CSKA Moscow, the Kontinental Hockey League team he was just traded to.
Fletcher says "that'd be news to me" and doesn't believe the rumors to be true.
"We've been in contact with his agent over the last couple weeks and we haven't been made aware of anything like you're communicating to me," Fletcher said. "We're operating under the assumption he's got a year left. He's going to play for CSKA, and then he's interested in coming over and playing for the Wild for the 18-19 season. He's a heckuva player. I think he'll be ready to step in and be a good hockey player for us a year from now. That's our expectation and our hope. We haven't been notified of anything to the contrary.
"There was a rumor a few weeks ago of something to this effect, too, and his agent shot it down and said it wasn't true. It's just been communicated to us that he's going to play for CSKA another year, and our hope he's going to suit up for the Wild in 18-19."
And when Fletcher says suit up for the Wild, he means 100 percent with Minnesota, not Iowa. As I reported several months ago, it has been communicated to the Wild that Kaprizov only wants to play in the NHL and Fletcher says, "I think he can play this year personally. But certainly another year of experience and he'll be that much more ready to play and contribute and be a good player."
Kaprizov captained Team Russia at the world junior championships and led the entire tournament with nine goals. He set an Under 20 KHL record this season with 42 points (20 goals) in 49 games.
TSN analyst Ray Ferraro told me in January of Kaprizov, "He was the heartbeat of that team, their captain. He’s not a super big guy. He’s got more of a short, stocky build, but he was aggressive on the puck, he hunts it, he’s a little chippy, he can score, he shoots on the move. The one question is if he can play at the pace that he needs to play at. The tough part is, ‘How do you know?’ He’s got to get over here and play. But when the rest of the Russian team kind of meanders their way around, he doesn’t. He doesn’t play a European game.”
Obviously, there will continue to be rumors. This is the scary thing about drafting Russians because the good ones will always be pressured by the KHL to stay, and CSKA Moscow is one of the richest of em all over there.
But if Kaprizov wants to eventually be an NHLer, he'll be over here for development camp and training camp in 2018.
2. Fletcher just completed his meetings with Bruce Boudreau and the coaching staff, the pro scouts and the rest of the front office.
On May 17, I wrote this meaty blog advancing Fletcher's couple weeks. Click the link for a refresher
I asked Fletcher if there's anything clearer.
"We have a lot of ideas, but there's some challenges obviously and we're still talking to other teams and speaking to Vegas, and I think we have a better idea of what's possible," Fletcher said. "Again, there's only so much you can control. We'll just continue the conversations and see how things play out."
Fletcher, who currently doesn't own a first- or second-round pick, will attend the scouting combine next week in Buffalo in large part to talk to other teams and maybe some agents.
"The combine will be important obviously from the standpoint of preparing for the entry draft, but I think it'll also be a very good opportunity to speak to a lot of different teams and see if there's a fit in terms of making a trade," Fletcher said.
Fletcher said he has not set up anything official yet with the agents of potential restricted free agents Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter: "Over the next few weeks, we'll sit down. That's our plan, but I don't have anything officially set up right now."
Just beware, because they're both unsigned, because they're both coveted, because others know the Wild's cap challenges, there will be trade rumors on both these guys on the horizon. So don't freak on every single one.
3. Fletcher also denied a tweet from @grantmccagg that former Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray, a close friend of Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr, may join the Wild in some capacity.
As close as the three men are (Fletcher worked with Murray in Florida and Anaheim, Flahr with Murray in Florida, Anaheim and Ottawa), Murray has three years left on his deal at big money.
"That's not accurate," Fletcher said of bringing in Murray. "We'll see what the future brings, but right now, that's not true at all. There'd be a lot of hoops and hurdles there, and it's not even a good thing to speculate on because there's nothing true to that at all right now. That's not true at all."
Note though, there are a lot of "right nows" there and "we'll see what the future brings," so it wouldn't shock me if there's truth to McCagg's tweet. At a minimum, I'd bet both parties wouldn't mind it happening at some stage because there's a ton of mutual respect there and friendship.
This reminds me of 2009 when Fletcher denied Flahr joining the Wild despite the fact I kept writing it incessantly in May and June. He had to deny, deny, deny because Flahr was under contract to Ottawa and was going to be a big part of the Senators draft table in Montreal that June. All of a sudden, mid July comes around, and I just happened to run into Flahr on the streets of Minneapolis. Flahr was hired days later to be Fletcher's right-hand man. If Murray ever did come here, it would be creating a position or maybe replacing somebody, so there could be some sensitivity here from Fletcher's perspective, too.
So, this may be something to keep an eye on.
If Fletcher does eventually bring Murray, it should come with a few second-round picks though.
I kid, I kid.
4. All the best to Boudreau, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery today to clean a bunch of stuff up.
5. I'll leave for the Stanley Cup Final Saturday. I have a pretty cool first feature in Sunday's paper on the very close relationship between Fletcher and Predators GM David Poile, who was hired by Fletcher's dad, Cliff, in Atlanta in 1972. So Fletcher met his now fellow GM at age 5.
As always, thanks to the Star Tribune for allowing me to cover the Cup Finals, and I hope you all enjoy the coverage these next few weeks because it's a bigtime rarity in today's day and age that an out-of-town newspaper sends their hockey writer to the Finals.