The Wild's offseason ended with an exclamation point.
On the eve of training camp and after a months-long negotiation, the Wild finally re-signed Kirill Kaprizov on Tuesday to an unprecedented five-year, $45 million contract. The deal gives last season's leading scorer and the NHL's reigning rookie of the year one of the most lucrative deals the Wild has ever awarded.
Kaprizov will report to camp Wednesday for medicals and fitness testing, and he'll be on the ice for practice at Tria Rink in St. Paul on Thursday.
"Let's go," Kaprizov wrote on Instagram.
This signing puts a bow on a transformative summer for the Wild: the team unloaded not one but two faces of the franchise, brought back key offensive players and overhauled its defense.
But finalizing Kaprizov's return was arguably even more significant to the Wild.
Contract talks started around six months ago, well before Kaprizov solidified himself as the most decorated rookie in Wild history.
He debuted almost six years after he was drafted 135th overall in the fifth round in 2015, staying in his native Russia to play mostly in the KHL until signing with the Wild in July 2020. A month later, the Wild resumed the 2019-20 season after it was put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic but Kaprizov wasn't eligible to compete.
His first game came earlier this year when the NHL restarted in January with a condensed, 56-game season. And when the puck finally dropped, Kaprizov proved he was worth the wait and a budding star in the league.
He had a team-high 27 goals that were tops among rookies and eighth overall. Kaprizov's 51 points also led the Wild and all first-year players, and the left winger set several Wild rookie records including goals, assists and points.
After the season, Kaprizov was a near-unanimous selection for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's best rookie.
With Kaprizov's entry-level contract expiring, team brass preferred to sign him long term and initially pushed for a contract that was for seven or eight years (the maximum length). But Kaprizov's camp preferred a shorter deal. The compromise came in at five years, but reaching a resolution was still a complicated process because of how unique Kaprizov's résumé is.
While most players entering their second contracts are coming off multiple NHL seasons, Kaprizov's body of work was limited to just 55 regular-season games and another seven in the playoffs and all that action came against the same seven teams as part of last season's division-based schedule.
At 24, Kaprizov was also older than the typical rookie and only three years away from unrestricted free agency.
Add in the fact Kaprizov was negotiating his first major NHL contract after moving away from home during a pandemic under strict health and safety rules, and his experience becomes even more uncommon. A direct comparable just didn't exist.
But recent second contracts for standout rookies have clocked in at the $8-9 million range, which the Wild was willing to pay; the five-year, $45 million offer was tabled about a month ago. Colorado re-signed Cale Makar for six years at $54 million, and fellow defenseman Miro Heiskanen has a $8.45 million annual average for his deal with Dallas. As for forwards, Mikko Rantanen received six years at a $9.25 million average from Colorado in 2019.
None of these players, however, had been in the NHL for just 62 games when signing these contracts.
Not only is Kaprizov's $9 million average annual value the highest on the Wild, but only five others in the NHL have a higher cap hit among players 25 and under. Kaprizov's deal doesn't contain any signing bonuses, and it includes a no-movement clause in the final two years. After his signing, the Wild has approximately $3 million in cap space.
Despite the Kaprizov talks spanning the entire offseason, the Wild still attended to other business.
The team continued the exodus of longtime players, buying out Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Ian Cole and Carson Soucy are gone, too, setting up a reimagined defense that includes free-agent pickups Alex Goligoski, Dmitry Kulikov, Jon Merrill and Jordie Benn.
Joel Eriksson Ek re-signed for eight years at $42 million, and Kevin Fiala is back on a one-year, $5.1 million deal. Nick Bjugstad also returned, and Frederick Gaudreau is new up front. Marco Rossi, Matt Boldy and Calen Addison are among the prospects vying for roster spots.
Aside from practice time, the Wild will have a six-game preseason schedule that begins Saturday at St. Louis in the lead-up to the season opener Oct.15 at Anaheim.
Now that Kaprizov is signed, the Wild can integrate everybody into that preparation.