The Minnesota Wild entered the offseason with three RFA’s needing an extension, including Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala, and Joel Eriksson Ek. It was always going to be a very difficult summer for a team that needed to re-sign three of their top forwards. After signing Eriksson Ek to an eight-year extension, they were able to finally reach a resolution with Fiala. The dynamic winger avoided an arbitration hearing by signing a one-year, $5.1 million contract extension.
Both sides were far apart in contract negotiations which led to the Wild filing for arbitration, a rare occurrence as the player is usually the one that brings the team to arbitration. Fiala wanted to be locked up for the future – reportedly in the $7-8 million range – while the team wanted a short-term deal because of the asking price on the long-term deal. They both ended up compromising in the middle, surprisingly on a one-year contract rather than two years that could send Fiala right to free agency where he would inevitably get lucrative offers.
The Wild were able to get him significantly lower in terms of market value, albeit just for just one year. He will remain an RFA next summer and will hold arbitration rights. So, there’s a chance that this could all happen again next season.
Fiala is more than likely going to get a huge payday next offseason, a likely motive of taking a one-year deal rather than two years. The 25-year-old winger has been in trade rumors this summer because of contract disputes and the possibility of using him as a big piece for a top-six center. It would be an enormous loss if he was moved, so there’s optimism both sides can agree on a long-term deal next summer.
Breaking Down Fiala’s Game
The Wild have witnessed Fiala emerge as a game-breaker over the past two seasons. He’s an offensive threat in transition and has scored quite a few highlight-reel goals. He has led the Wild in scoring over the past two seasons with 43 goals and 94 points in the past 114 games. There is no doubt that he is the second biggest driver of offense for the team behind budding star Kaprizov.
The most dangerous part of his game is in transition. The young promising forward ranks in the 87th and 91st percentile in controlled entries and controlled exits per 60, respectively, from 2017-20. Likewise, he is also in the 84th percentile in shot assists – a significant predictor of whether a shot turns into a goal. He’s lethal in transition, which has been something that has been lacking on the team in the past. In regards to transition, Fiala is one of the best players in the league in this facet of the game.
Fiala has a very good shot too, scoring 8.2 goals above expected over the past two seasons based on the quality of the shots, such as where the location was when the shots were taken. In that same span, he had a 57.20 Corsi For Percentage and held a 58.90 expected goal share. He is very effective when it comes to offensive play driving and producing expected goals. Furthermore, he ranked 45th among forwards over the past two seasons in expected wins above replacement.
While he needs to be more responsible defensively and more disciplined, both weaknesses are often exaggerated. Fiala has already improved defensively since his arrival to Minnesota. However, this next season will be very important because he does need to show some more consistency over an entire season.
The Wild were finally able to sign their game-breaking winner after the uncertainty surrounding Fiala. The stage is set for next summer, and Fiala will be looking to build onto the past two seasons. His camp is likely banking on a strong season that will land him a lucrative multi-year extension after next season. While there are certainly some things that need improvement, he’s turning into the player the Wild desperately needed him to be as they finish their retool.
The roster has taken shape, and the offseason changeover is nearly complete. The attention now turns to Calder Trophy winner Kaprizov who still remains unsigned and is the last remaining priority of the offseason.
All Data Via Evolving-Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, Hockey-Viz, Hockey-Reference & Corey Sznajder’s Transition Tool
Aaron Heckmann is a journalism & broadcasting student. He covers the Wild for The Hockey Writers & Zone Coverage’s 10krinks. His data-driven articles are focused on solving problems, telling stories, and discovering unique storylines. Find him on Twitter @aaron_heckmann.