It seemed inevitable that the Minnesota Wild were going to have to trade Kevin Fiala this offseason.
On Wednesday, they did.
The Wild sent Fiala, a restricted free agent, to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for the Kings’ first-round draft pick in 2022 (No. 19 overall) and defense prospect Brock Faber.
Faber, currently the captain at the University of Minnesota, was a second-round pick (No. 45 overall) by the Kings in the 2020 NHL draft.
The Kings are also reportedly signing Fiala to a long-term contract extension as part of the deal. According to Elliotte Friedman, that contract will be a seven-year deal worth $7.9 million per season.
Kings are ready for a big leap forward
This is a huge deal for a Kings team that took a major step forward this past season and could be on the verge of a major breakthrough in the Western Conference. Fiala seems to be a perfect fit for the Kings’ style of play given his ability to drive possession, while also giving them some much-needed scoring punch on the wings. Fiala is coming off a career year that saw him score 33 goals, 52 assists, and 85 points in 82 games for the Wild this past season. In his three-plus years with the Wild he averaged a 30-goal, 70-point pace per 82 games.
The Kings have assembled one of the deepest farm systems in the league in recent years, and over the past two seasons have been very bold in adding established NHL players to complement them.
A year ago they traded for Viktor Arvidsson and made a huge free agent splash with the signing of Philip Danault. Together those two helped form an outstanding second scoring line behind Anze Kopitar that helped drive the Kings to the playoffs.
The two biggest X-factors for the Kings will be the continued development of young forwards Arthur Kaliyev and Quinton Byfield, as well as their goaltending. If Kaliyev and Byfield take a big step forward, that is going to make this lineup absolutely fierce at forward, especially down the middle with Kopitar, Danualt, and Byfield as their 1-3 at center.
Best of a bad situation for Wild
As for the Wild, this is tough. In an ideal world they keep Fiala and continue to build around him, Kirill Kaprizov, and Mats Zuccarello and remain a top Stanley Cup contender in the Western Conference.
But their salary cap situation is dire in the next few years due to the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts that are going to result in $12-15 million in empty salary cap space the next few years. There was just no way they could re-sign Fiala.
Faber is a legit prospect and has top-four potential long-term, but the No. 19 overall pick is a lottery ticket that probably only has a 50-50 shot of being an NHL player, let alone a major contributor. Tough spot to be in for a team that has been so good (and fun) the past two years.