The Wild were the sellers in this move, sending Kevin Fiala to the rising Los Angeles Kings for prospect defenceman Brock Faber and LA's first-round pick, 19th overall in this year's draft.
The reason why the Wild, the fifth-best regular season team in the league, had to move an 85-point RFA winger was brought on by the decision last summer to buy out both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter from the remaining years of their contracts. In that wake, Minnesota was left with hefty cap penalties, which will cost them $12.743 million in dead cap space next season, and $14.743 million in dead cap space the two years after that.
After the trade was made, Fiala immediately signed a seven-year deal with the Kings that comes with a $7.875 million AAV. That would have made him the second-highest paid player on Minnesota, and wasn't the sort of commitment the team could make right now without, as GM Bill Guerin described, having to trade out two or three others from the roster.
"He had a great year and we just were not going to be able to do it," Guerin said. "We knew that, [Fiala's camp] knew that, there's no sense in trying to screw around and fit this and fit that and give him a low ball deal. It just wasn't going to work. We knew we were going to have to move him.
"It just didn't fit."
The return is certainly an interesting one for the Wild, who now hold picks 19 and 24 (their own) in next week's draft, and also scooped up an exciting defence prospect who hails from the area. Faber, meantime, is a homegrown player currently playing at the University of Minnesota, where he'll return next season.
It was a trade that had to happen for Minnesota, and Fiala's is the first name crossed off our list of trade candidates to keep an eye on this summer. The Kings were fast to offer an attractive return, leaving Guerin happy to pull the trigger ahead of what's expected to be a busy draft week of trading.
"LA they came in right away and were serious. There was no tire kicking or feeling out process, they were serious right away so it made it easy to do a deal," Guerin said.
So what is each team getting from this trade? Here's a look at the players involved...
TO LOS ANGELES: KEVIN FIALA
The Kings had indicated that this off-season would be one where some chips could be pushed in to try and make progress after a third place Pacific Division finish and first round playoff exit against Edmonton. There is lots of promise blossoming around this team, which also has to be mindful of the effective windows for Anze Kopitar (34) and Drew Doughty (32).
Last off-season GM Rob Blake acquired Viktor Arvidsson for some veteran scoring punch. This time he was able to get the 25-year-old Fiala, who is coming off a career season and now set to be a long-term fixture in LA's top six.
A fantastic player in transition, Fiala was second to Kirill Kaprizov in every major offensive stat category this past season. There was evidence this sort of breakout was coming for Fiala. During the 2019-20 season, Fiala was heating up and from Feb. 1 through to the COVID pause on the season, he was third in league scoring with 26 points in 19 games. His points per game rate was reduced a little last season, but his underlying numbers remained strong.
And then this season, especially after settling in opposite rookie winger Matt Boldy, Fiala exploded for 33 goals and 85 points in 82 games.
If there is one thing to be mindful of it's that Fiala hasn't come through with a playoff performance as explosive yet. He managed just two points in seven post-season games last year, and just three assists in six games against the Blues in this year's playoffs.
But now, as the Kings start to form what could be a terrifying top six, we're betting Fiala will take off and that the playoff scoring -- and opportunities to do so -- will keep coming.
Kopitar and Phillip Danault down the middle. Viktor Arvidsson, Adrian Kempe (RFA), Fiala and Trevor Moore on the wings. That makes for a pretty good looking top six. And, oh ya, youngsters Arthur Kaliyev, Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte are all still coming, too. Things are looking great Los Angeles right now.
Scout's Analysis from Jason Bukala:
Fiala heading to Los Angeles adds another offensive weapon to the Kings roster. As a prospect Fiala was projected to be a quick, fast, competitive, and skilled forward who had a chance to be a high-end point producer as an NHL player. He has become the player he was expected to become and added more responsibility defensively. Fiala is now a player who can be deployed at even strength, on the power play, penalty kill, in OT and for the shootout. The LA Kings improve their scoring and depth with this acquisition.
TO MINNESOTA: 19th OVERALL PICK AND BROCK FABER
The 19th overall pick Minnesota acquired will be the first selection they make next Thursday in Montreal, but they also hold their own pick at 24th overall.
Looking at Sam Cosentino's final draft rankings for Sportsnet, the Wild could be in line to pick a forward like Jimmy Snuggerud, Noah Ostlund or take a shot on Brad Lambert with the Kings' pick, or go for a defenceman such as Owen Pickering, Lian Bischel or Pavel Mintyukov.
Guerin said there is no specific plan on what they want to do with Los Angeles' selection, besides the obvious of taking the best player.
A cap strapped team such as the Wild always has a need for draft picks to start anew and begin populating the system for some cheaper, high upside players. But the Wild aren't rebuilding. They are trying to still push forward with what they have, are hopeful of even re-signing Marc-Andre Fleury, and between Boldy and Marco Rossi, they have some NHL-ready players to get excited about right now.
But to get through these three season where the Suter and Parise buyouts really sting, it's integral to keep adding to the pipeline so that they're ready to strike big at the other side of it.
"Look at the two teams that were in the final, those teams were built through the draft," Guerin said. "There were some trades made along the way, but the bulk of those teams were made through the draft and I think they're very well built teams. It's the way you have to do it."
The real prize right now, though, is Faber, a second round pick (45th overall) in 202 by the Kings. The Wild will know Faber especially well given he's from their backyard and plays for the University of Minnesota, where he'll return as captain. in 2022-23.
Guerin was asked if there was any concern about adding a hometown kid, knowing the pressures he will face in that market.
"I used to be a little more timid about bringing a Minnesota kid back to Minnesota, but what I've found is if I do that and I'm eliminating Minnesota kids because of that fear, I'm eliminating the biggest player pool in the United States," Guerin said. "So we're happy to have Minnesota kids here. We're happy to help them navigate playing in your home town."
Prospect analysis from Sam Cosentino:
Overall, this is a steal of a deal for Minnesota. Brock Faber is a Minnesota kid who left his home state to play for the USNTDP. After two solid years there, he returned home to play for the University of Minnesota, where he has spent the past two seasons.
Faber was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the year and a first team all-star and the accolades continued with an appearance for Team USA in the Olympics.
Faber is an excellent skater who projects as a solid puck-moving defensive defenceman. With a number of left shot defencemen currently in the Wild's system, Bill Guerin has added a right shot D at a price point that fits perfectly into the Wild’s pending salary cap crisis.
Oddly, if you had to relate him to a player in the 2022 draft, that player would be Ryan Chesley (No. 31 in SN rankings). The two were very similar in size and production while members of the USNTDP. They both shoot right and they both lean towards the defensive side of the puck.
The first round pick is an added bonus in exchange for a player they could no longer afford in Fiala. There will be plenty of good players available at 19th overall, and if Guerin is super aggressive, he could package LA’s pick at 19 and his own at 24 to move into the top 10.
LA did have a surplus of right-shot defencemen, so they were dealing from an area of strength. While they do have a stocked cupboard of prospects, it’s always difficult to give up a first round pick. Still, if there was ever a year to do so, this is it based on some of the uncertainty surrounding player development during the pandemic.