South Beach isn't a stop on the NHL circuit, but the beachy Florida neighborhood has become embedded in Wild lore.
That's where the team finally signed star forward Kirill Kaprizov to a splashy five-year, $45 million contract on Tuesday to end a monthslong negotiation on the brink of training camp. And it was the in-person meeting between Kaprizov, his agent and General Manager Bill Guerin amid the sand and surf that Guerin believes helped seal the deal.
"Him just hearing it from me, face to face, was really important," Guerin said Wednesday alongside Kaprizov at the team's headquarters in St. Paul. "Now he's like, 'OK. He's telling me, not my agent. This is real.' But I can also explain to him from where I'm coming from, and it's important for me, too, to understand where he's coming from."
During contract talks, which started in the spring, Guerin and Kaprizov texted each other but this was the first face-to-face conversation.
Team brass wanted to sign Kaprizov for seven or eight years, but Kaprizov's camp was angling for a shorter commitment. The two sides settled in the middle, but the five-year offer that averaged out to $9 million a season had been sitting on the table for about a month.
Then, on Monday, Kaprizov's agent, Paul Theofanous, reached out to Guerin and told him it was time for the two sides to get together. Kaprizov and Theofanous were in Florida, getting the Russian to the United States so he had enough time to quarantine and get vaccinated.
On Monday night, Guerin flew to Florida. The three had dinner together, and then Guerin and Theofanous met for breakfast the next day.
When all three reunited later in the afternoon, they arrived at a resolution.
"Obviously, it was stressful," Kaprizov said in Russian through a translator. "The whole process was hard. Coming out of last season, I thought things would get done a little bit quicker. But these things take time. I completely understand. I'm really happy that I'm here now, and I can just focus on hockey.
"Obviously extremely happy to be a part of the Minnesota Wild."
Guerin, who described Kaprizov as being "very involved" in the negotiations, said he wasn't disappointed with the five-year term and has no hard feelings for Kaprizov not wanting to sign longer.Kaprizov said he has loved his time in Minnesota and there was "no chance" he was returning to the KHL.
This contract capped off an already meaningful offseason for the 24-year-old, who will practice Thursday after players reported to camp for medicals and fitness testing Wednesday.
After leading the team in goals (27) and points (51) last season and shattering Wild rookie records, Kaprizov was awarded the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie — becoming the first recipient in team history.
"I sit at home with my parents, and I say, 'Parents, I won Calder Trophy,'" Kaprizov said in English. "We cheered. Shared drinks. Drank beer. Nothing more. I'm so happy to be with my family."
He didn't practice his English during the summer but managed to talk to Guerin during the entire 3 1/2 -hour flight from Florida to Minnesota, relying on Google Translate only sparingly.
"When I just come to Minnesota, I was here first two, three months, I speak no good," Kaprizov said in English. "Just little bit. Now I understand better and better."
Kaprizov has already made quite the statement on the ice, and in Year 2 he'll face a new challenge: a full season against the entire league as a high-profile player with a contract to match.
The left winger said he doesn't feel any pressure and because of his competitiveness and character, Guerin believes Kaprizov will prevail.
"He's a very galvanizing person that he's brought our team together," said Guerin, calling Kaprizov worth "every penny" of the deal. "Big personality. Always smiling. Always working hard. He's brought guys together, and then he goes out on the ice and he performs at such a high level. That's leadership."