What the Wild Lost and Gained in the Fiala Trade

The Kevin Fiala sweepstakes have finally come to an end. The Athletic‘s Michael Russo first reported that the Minnesota Wild traded the pending restricted free agent’s rights to the Los Angeles Kings for the 19th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, as well as defenseman prospect Brock Faber. The deal comes as a result of the Wild not having enough cap space (approximately $6.5 million, according to Cap Friendly), proven by the fact that the talented forward immediately signed a “seven-year deal with an average annual value just under $8 million” following the deal.

Though the Wild needed help restocking the prospect cupboard, the return for Fiala is somewhat underwhelming to some fans. After all, it was initially reported that the organization was linked to teams with top-10 picks, such as the New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators. There were also reports that the Wild were hoping to bring in at least one roster player who could contribute right away, which didn’t happen.

Here’s a look at what the Wild lost and gained in the Fiala trade, as well as why some fans might be feeling underwhelmed.

What the Wild Lost

Kevin Fiala

Unsurprisingly, Fiala was the biggest piece in the trade that’s sending him to the Kings. A middle-of-the-pack player during his time with the Nashville Predators, the 25-year-old began to blossom once he was shipped off to Minnesota in exchange for Mikael Granlund back in February 2019. It ended up being the best move for his career as he got better with each passing season in a Wild jersey.

Finding chemistry at times with the likes of Kirill Kaprizov and even rookie Matt Boldy, Fiala set new career-highs in goals (33), assists (52) and points (85) during the 2021-22 NHL season. The 27 even-strength goals he potted were also the most of his career, gaining notice from teams across the league. Even though fans knew that this was likely his last season with the club, it doesn’t change the fact that his departure is still disappointing.

Kevin Fiala Minnesota Wild
Kevin Fiala, formerly of the Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The fact of the matter is that it’s going to be tough for the Wild to replace Fiala’s goal-scoring abilities. He was one of three players on the roster to find the back of the net at least 30 times, and it wouldn’t be shocking if he gets closer to the 40-goal mark as he enters his prime. Yes, the Wild still have the likes of Kaprizov, Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman to score goals, but there’s certainly a noticeable hole where Fiala used to be.

The Wild don’t have to cap space to re-sign their free agents and add a 30-goal scorer in free agency unless a player is willing to take a massive payout. Perhaps someone like Joel Eriksson Ek could find a new gear, but only time will tell if that’s a realistic expectation or wishful thinking. Either way, general manager Bill Guerin must get creative when it comes to replacing Fiala’s offensive production.

What the Wild Gained

19th Overall Pick at the 2022 NHL Entry Draft

As mentioned earlier, the Wild were reportedly hoping for a top-10 pick in this year’s draft. Even though the Devils’ No. 2 selection seemed like a pipe dream at best, there was reason to believe that the Wild could’ve snagged Pick No. 7 from the Senators. Instead, they must settle for the 19th overall selection from the Kings.

There’s nothing wrong with adding another first-round pick, but the Kings’ selection is only five spots ahead of the Wild’s original pick. This year’s draft class is still one of the deepest in recent years, but the Wild won’t have the chance to draft any of the higher-rated prospects unless they plan on packaging both picks and moving up.

Related: Wild Should Target These 3 Low-Cost Free Agents

Another downside to picking in the second half of the first round is that there aren’t always NHL-ready prospects available. The Wild’s window to win is smaller than they’d like due to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter’s buyouts kicking in next season. Instead of getting a player who could compete next season, they might have to settle for one that’s a year or two from cracking the NHL lineup and even further away from being a consistent contributor.

Brock Faber, Defensemen

The 19th overall pick isn’t the only thing that the Wild received in the Fiala trade. They also got back a prospect in the former of Faber. It only takes a glance to see one reason why Wild management wanted to acquire the blueliner: he’s about as local of a prospect as it gets. Faber was born in Maple Grove, Minnesota — just an hour’s drive outside of St. Paul.

The former 2020 second-round pick grew up playing high school hockey in the state as well before committing to continuing his career at the University of Minnesota, where he just so happens to be the captain, being a terrific leader both on and off the ice. He’s even represented the United States on the international stage, playing a big role in Team USA’s gold medal run at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. He also represented his country at the 2022 Winter Olympics, and even though the Americans didn’t find much success, Faber still gained valuable experience.

Brock Faber University of Minnesota
Brock Faber, University of Minnesota (University of Minnesota Athletics)

Faber is a terrific defensive defenseman who can occasionally chip in offensively, recording three goals and 23 assists in 59 games during his time with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. It also makes sense that Guerin wanted him given that the likes of Matt Dumba, Dmitry Kulikov and Alex Goligoski will all be free agents at the end of the next season or 2023-24 campaign.

While fans might’ve been hoping for a forward prospect or roster player in return, Faber fills a premium need: he can play defense on the right side. That’s something that a lot of teams are always chasing, and the Wild now have it covered as long as his development goes as planned. Assuming that he can reach his potential, along with the fact that he’s a local boy, Faber will likely be a Wild fan favorite in no time, even if he wasn’t the return that some had hoped for.

Wild Must Make Most Out of Return

Pipedreams and potentially overrating Fiala’s value as a restricted free agent is likely why some Wild fans are underwhelmed by the trade return. Keeping that in mind, the past is the past, and there’s nothing that can change. The Wild now have two first-round draft picks, which they could always trade to move up and grab a prospect that Guerin and the scouts love.

There’s also the possibility that fans could think more highly of this trade down the line if Fiala can’t produce with the Kings as well as he did with the Wild. Regardless, this trade seems like one that’ll take a few years before a “winner” is declared. For now, the Wild fanbase should be pleased that Guerin has more pieces to help build toward the future.

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