MONTREAL – Minnesota Wild and NHL tried to get a handle on a development situation on Wednesday after several media reports surfaced from Russia that Wild star Kirill Kaprizov is wanted in his home country for allegedly buying a forged military ID card in 2017 , when he played for Salavat Yulaev Ufa. Wild general manager Bill Guerin told Athletics that Kaprizov is still in Russia, contrary to reports that he had fled to the United States.
“We try to find out as much as we can, but we are not worried too much about it,” Guerin said. “I’ve talked to (Kaprizov’s agent) Paul (Theofanous). We do not want to press the panic button or anything like that. We’re just trying to gather information right now and find out if this is credible at all.”
This situation comes a few days after Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ivan Fedotov was arrested and taken to a military naval camp for allegedly evading compulsory military service. Fedotov has been accused of buying a fake military ID from a senior military officer who allegedly also helped other Ufa athletes obtain the military cards.
Kaprizov was on that team with Fedotov. SHOT Telegram reported that Kaprizov and Pavel Karnaukhov are suspected of buying military IDs in 2017.
Kaprizov’s father, Oleg, denied that his son bought a military ID for Sport-Express, saying Kaprizov is a student at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA). It is common for Russian professional athletes to study far away as a means of delaying their military obligations.
However, Kaprizov’s release expired on June 30, according to a source familiar with the situation. If this is true, regardless of the accusation that he bought a military ID five years ago, Kaprizov may be required to fulfill his military obligations. In Russia, men must serve in the military for a year between 18 and 27 years.
Theofanous did not respond to further interview requests.
Kaprizov, 25, has played the last two seasons with Wild. He won the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year in 2020-21 and last season set a franchise record with 47 goals and 108 points. Prior to that, he represented CSKA Moscow – still considered the Red Army team – for three years. Typically, CSKA Moscow players have previously been exempted from military service. However, it can be an informal rule.
“You are in the army, but your job is to play hockey,” said a Russian source. “Someone’s job is to run a tank, and your job is to hold a stick.”
Kaprizov is a decorated Russian player who twice led the KHL in goal scoring, won a league championship, was captain of their 2017 World Junior Championship team and scored the golden goal at the 2018 Winter Olympics. When he was pressured four years ago to signing a contract with CSKA Moscow and not signing with Wild four years ago, he did just that. He has been photographed many times while shaking the hand of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“He did everything they asked,” said a source close to many Russian players. “That’s why he stayed so long without coming to the United States because they asked him to do it – official people asked him to do it.”
Asked how worried he is that Kaprizov could be forced to stay in Russia, a source with knowledge of what’s going on in Russia said he is not – “unless it comes straight from the top and you know who I mean. “
“If it comes from the person (Putin) and he says Kirill is not going anywhere, then he is going nowhere,” the source said. “Unless it comes from one person, everyone else will be fine. Only one person can make him stay, not anyone else.
“But is it possible? As a small percentage, of course, because he is one of the biggest names, there is an example. What do you want to make an example of: Fedotov, who should be in the AHL, or a star in the league? If you want to do the news, you seize the best you can. I think he has a good status with extremely high-ranking people, but if there’s a push and they want to be an example of him, they will obviously do it. forget everything else – all the good things he has done for the country. “
It is an alarming thought that was reflected in a story published by Athletics last week, with a number of NHL executives expressing their concern that Russian players could have trouble returning to North America in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and escalating global tensions.
Russian NHL stars traveled home. Will they all be back?
– The Athletic (@TheAthletic) July 1, 2022
In that story, an agent said he warned all his customers not to return home out of season, and Guerin said he begged Kaprizov six weeks ago not to return to Russia out of season.
A Russian person who works closely with players throughout the NHL reiterated this position on Wednesday Athletics. He said he warned everyone he has ties to not to return to Russia out of season.
“I strongly recommended that no one go back and virtually no one listened,” the source said. “They all laughed, because until something happens, people take it lightly. Now something has happened and people no longer take it lightly. I’m sure these guys are no longer laughing.”
The NHL held its annual GM meeting on Wednesday, and executives said the issue of Russia, possibly preventing players from returning, did not come up.
“There’s no guide,” Philadelphia Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher said. “Teams are free to make their own decisions.
“It is a very sensitive situation and we are doing our best to keep abreast of any developments. In the light of the current situation (with Fedotov), I will probably limit my public comments.”
Brian MacLellan, Washington Capitals GM, said he has spoken with Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov.
“Every time I talk to them, they are comfortable and confident that they can come back,” MacLellan said. “Of course there is uncertainty there, but they are comfortable.”
As for Kaprizov, several sources said Wednesday that if he returns to the United States, he should not return until after his playing days. But it could also put his parents and brother, who live in Russia, at risk.
“Obviously, Russia is trying to pressure NHL players right now not to leave Russia,” a league source said. “This will not be exclusive to Kirill Kaprizov. I do not know how any Russian players can feel safe returning to Russia every offseason now. Or the NHL draft is coming (Thursday and Friday). How do you draft a Russian player now? “I do not know. It is very complicated.”
(Photo by Kirill Kaprizov: Bailey Hillesheim / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)