As the NHL and NHLPA move toward the ratification of an extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, fans of several playoff teams are still wondering whether they’ll be able to include some overseas reinforcements. Players such as Minnesota Wild draft pick Kirill Kaprizov have been waiting to see if the league would change its stance on eligibility this summer, allowing them to sign an entry-level contract and burn the first year of it while suiting up for the 24-team tournament. Previously, the league was firm that it would not allow new contracts to be signed, but several reports have simultaneously emerged suggesting that has changed -- at least in part.
Still, Kaprizov won’t be hitting the ice for Minnesota in its qualification round against the Vancouver Canucks. Michael Russo of The Athletic, Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports and Andrew Gross of Newsday all report that once the CBA extension has been ratified, players will be allowed to sign their entry-level contracts this summer to burn the first year, but will not be eligible to play. Russo predicted this very outcome just last week, and outlined the challenges this creates for teams that want to get these talented draft picks under contract.
Kaprizov, widely considered the best hockey player not currently in the NHL, is joined by top prospects such as Ilya Sorokin and Alexander Romanov in this situation. Signing a deal now would guarantee that they are able to play for their respective team next season but would also get them a year closer to restricted free agency.
As Russo points out with regard to Kaprizov in particular, burning an entry-level year without anything to show for it comes with both pros and cons. The 23-year old Russian is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2023-24 season regardless of whether he signs for 2019-20 or starts his two-year entry-level deal in 2020-21, meaning the Wild will likely have to try to sign him to a long-term extension after this first deal expires. The young forward could also decide to return to the KHL for another season instead, considering that the 2020-21 NHL campaign is not expected to begin until the middle of winter, while the Russian league is still aiming for a September start.