The MSA gauge spiked again this week. Not to unhealthy levels, but enough to increase the Minnesota Sports Anxiety reading beyond its default setting of dread.
The Wild is locked in a contract staredown with the most talented and entertaining player in team history.
Now comes a report from Daily Faceoff that Kirill Kaprizov has a tentative one-year contract worth at least $10 million with a Kontinental Hockey League team in Russia if he can't reach a new deal with the Wild by Sept. 1.
And did we mention training camp starts next month and the season opener is two months away?
Frustrating that it has reached this point, but decrease your MSA. This looks like a case of Negotiating 101, a superstar-in-the-making flexing his leverage muscle to maximize his value. The situation is complicated, for sure, but a threat that Kaprizov might return to Russia feels more like a bluff than a realistic option.
The safe bet remains that the Wild and Kaprizov find compromise on a deal that is fair to both sides. Sometimes these things just take time and patience, though Kaprizov's camp is certainly testing every ounce of patience in Wild General Manager Bill Guerin and a fan base that waits nervously.
Kaprizov's long-awaited arrival was a bumpy path of uncertainty, so why expect this episode to be any different?
In trying to make sense of their stalemate and look for clues in how it might end, start with this fundamental premise: Competitors love to test themselves against the best competition.
The NHL is the best hockey league in the world. As a rookie, Kaprizov showed himself to be a tough competitor. He thrived and seemed to enjoy going head-to-head against the best players in his sport.
So we're supposed to buy the notion that he's willing to play JV hockey instead if he doesn't get everything he's asking for in contract demands?
At a minimum, Kaprizov likely is looking at $35 million guaranteed in his next Wild deal. What if he suffered a serious injury playing in the KHL? And even if he spends a year playing in Russia, the Wild still owns his contract rights.
Obviously, Guerin can't afford to write off a season with a cornerstone player. That would be bad business — on the ice, in selling tickets and in optics. The Wild desperately needs Kaprizov in the lineup to avoid major disruption to what Guerin is attempting to build in his organizational makeover.
In his short time running the operation, Guerin has shown a willingness to make tough decisions that might be unpopular. Trading Kaprizov should not be an option even considered, no matter how frustrating negotiations become.
The Wild understandably would love to lock up Kaprizov to a long-term deal. And Kaprizov understandably would love to sign a short-term deal to become an unrestricted free agent as soon as possible.
Neither side is winning that battle. A reasonable comprise exists in the middle — a term of four or five years. The Athletic reported that the team is willing to go to $9 million annually on the deal, an offer that would be a record for the organization.
No doubt that this is a delicate negotiation. Kaprizov played better than advertised as a rookie, winning the Calder Trophy while showing off a dazzling display of skill, creativity and playmaking. The Wild hasn't had an individual talent like this in its existence.
Kaprizov's camp needs to maintain some perspective, too. His NHL resume consists of only 55 games, and he didn't exactly dominate the playoff series against Vegas.
He would still be in his prime — 28 years old — if he signs a four-year deal. If he continues to ascend into superstar territory, that bite at the contract apple would be especially scrumptious.
This staredown might drag on a little longer, which will give Minnesota sports fans more time to agonize over the worst-case scenario. Count me among those who will be shocked if Kaprizov is playing in Russia, and not Minnesota, this season.