Minnesota Wild Rumors: Fiala, Eriksson Ek, and a Goalie on the Move?

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 05: Kevin Fiala #22 of the Minnesota Wild celebrates his goal with Eric Staal #12, to trail 2-1 to the Anaheim Ducks, during the second period at Honda Center on November 05, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 05: Kevin Fiala #22 of the Minnesota Wild celebrates his goal with Eric Staal #12, to trail 2-1 to the Anaheim Ducks, during the second period at Honda Center on November 05, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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The National Media has yet to report it, but trade boards around the Internet and on Twitter are reporting interest in Minnesota Wild youth, plus speculation on what could happen with Minnesota Wild goalies.

ST. LOUIS, MO – OCTOBER 30: Jordan Binnington #50 of the St. Louis Blues defends the net against Joel Eriksson Ek #14 of the Minnesota Wild at Enterprise Center on October 30, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Joe Puetz/NHLI via Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO – OCTOBER 30: Jordan Binnington #50 of the St. Louis Blues defends the net against Joel Eriksson Ek #14 of the Minnesota Wild at Enterprise Center on October 30, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Joe Puetz/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Somewhat building off of last week’s article about what I would like the Minnesota Wild rebuild to look like, today we dive into trade rumors that are beginning to build around the Minnesota Wild. Mentioned above, I’ve yet to see any of the upcoming rumors to be reported by national media, but there has been buzz surrounding certain Wild players. Even Bill Guerin has admitted there have been some trade talks, as reported by Michael Russo (subscription required):

"Guerin says he has had plenty of trade talks with his fellow GMs, but they’re often just general conversations just to gauge the landscape."

Today we discuss the rumors.

Kevin Fiala

Somewhere Paul Fenton has to feel a little vindicated on last season’s trade. Real quick, let’s look at quick basic stats comparing Kevin Fiala and Mikael Granlund

Kevin Fiala in twelve games has three goals and three assists, averaging 13:42 of ice time

Mikael Granlund in seventeen games has two goals and two assists, averaging 16:20 of ice time

Also should be noted, Fiala is back up to the second line and Granlund has found himself on the fourth. Something tells me Granlund is just not fitting the Predators system. Just because I was curious, I asked Predlines, FanSided’s Predators affiliate, what’s been happening with our Finnesotan, and they said:

"Granlund has looked timid at times and just nothing like he was in Minnesota. Too finesse and hasn’t gotten any kind of boost from playing with Duchene on the 2nd line. He’s also had an insane 65% offensive zone start and not taking advantage of it. He’s been bumped down to the 4th line for the past two games."

Wild fans might recall the tendency to be too fine with the puck, it felt like at times he tries to make a highlight saucer pass, instead of making the simple play or using the sneaky good shot he has.

In his last four games, Kevin Fiala has five of his six points. It looks like he’s finally getting comfortable, which is good because that means his value is increasing. He’s a speedy winger and if he’s producing he becomes highly attractive.

Now we won’t post the tweet from the parody account because that just validates the trolling, but a certain Pittsburgh Penguins Parody account posted an extremely fake trade, stating that we traded Joel Eriksson Ek and Kevin Fiala for Jack Johnson (ew) and Nick Bjugstad (eh).

Ironically, one of the teams that are now interested in Kevin Fiala is the Pittsburgh Penguins. On November 6th, the NHL News/Rumors Twitter account reported:

They later followed up that General Manager Jim Rutherford isn’t working anything at the moment, but just about any general manager would say that. The Pittsburgh Penguins, after winning back to back cups, did something odd that most Stanley Cup Teams don’t do: Blow up the squad.

That isn’t to say they went into a full rebuild, but they’ve made drastic changes. To keep relevant and further build on the superhero hockey ability Sidney Crosby has, they might see value in a playmaking, speedy forward.

Looking at their NHL roster, I’m not sure who they would like to move on from. Immediate comparables are Sam Lafferty, who in ten games has three goals and three assists in the final year of his entry-level contract worth $792.5K, and Bryan Rust who in six games played has five goals and two assists with $3.5M/year for 2.5 seasons. I doubt that the Pens would want to move Rust, especially because he’s producing similar numbers as Kevin Fiala in fewer games, but the contracts are similar enough that Fiala and a pick for Rust would make a bit of sense. Plus, if I’m Bill Guerin I love that he’s a right-handed shot. The Wild would maybe settle for that deal if the pick is a later round or a second or third-round pick, two or three years from now. The desirable thing about trading for Lafferty would be getting $3M off the books for the next two seasons, plus getting a right-handed center who has produced in the AHL and is getting a shot with a good NHL team. With it being the last year of his ELC contract, you don’t have to commit to him long term. You can sign him to a bridge contract or release him to free agency. If you’re flipping Fiala for Lafferty, you have to get insurance, like getting an early-round draft pick.

Looking at Pittsburgh’s prospect pipeline, there is an intriguing individual available.

PuckProse ranked Pittsburgh’s prospects at the beginning of the season, Nathan Legare stood out to me. He’s a Right shot Right Winger: Goal Scorer, Gives Effort Defense but needs to improve positioning (which is coachable), could be a 1-2 with Kaprizov in the future.

The Boston Bruins have also shown interest in Kevin Fiala and the Los Angeles Kings Tyler Toffoli.

It would be the second Minnesota Wild player traded to the Boston Bruins in as many seasons, but with Bill Guerin at the helm, the return would likely be better than last time. The issue I have is seeing who Minnesota would want in return. I still have to believe that they want to get more right-handed shots because of the mass deficiency, but I don’t see a righty that Boston would be willing to part with (like a Jake DeBrusk) for just Fiala. Theoretically, you could create a package, but then there could be an issue of contracts on a roster, salary cap, and other minutiae.

The Bruins also lack seriously interesting prospects as in recent years they’ve shipped out draft picks or prospects for rentals, so nothing really to rebuild the Wild with youth and speed.

Also seems like the Buffalo Sabres would like to continue building their roster with youth, again according to NHL News/Rumors:

We’ll address Joel Eriksson Ek in a second, but the Buffalo Sabres have really interesting players they would maybe be willing to part with for Kevin Fiala.

The two players who immediately come to mind are Sam Reinhart and Casey Middlestadt. Middlestadt is still on his entry-level contract, but after only playing one season of college hockey, he made the jump to the NHL and hasn’t had phenomenal success. In seventy-seven games last season, he had twelve goals and thirteen assists, but so far through this season, in seventeen games, he has three goals and four assists, so he might be getting comfortable in the NHL. The Eden Praire native would also be close to home, so that could provide a sense of comfort for the kid. He’s a lefty, but he’s much less expensive and I believe has a higher ceiling than Fiala.

Sam Reinhart is labeled as a center but is currently playing on Jack Eichel’s right-wing. He’s a right shot, has eight goals and seven assists in seventeen games, and is on a similar contract to Kevin Fiala. He’s on the last year of his contract, so if Buffalo believes he won’t stay, they might try to get something for him. With Buffalo clearly out of the rebuild phase though, it might take a bit to pry Reinhart away. That said, I believe Reinhart provides more to the Wild than what Fiala does. He’s twenty-four, right-handed, and well established in the league. He helps rebuild the youth needed at the center, scores goals, and makes plays for his teammates. That said, I think it might take quite a bit to get Reinhart from Buffalo, so caution is needed.

For Joel Eriksson Ek, I have a couple of stipulations.

First and foremost, if the Minnesota Wild are going to trade the Swedish Center, they have to sell very high.

Second, you can certainly get more for Joel Eriksson Ek than Kevin Fiala. Middlestadt and Reinhart both would be suitable as a part of a package for Eriksson Ek, but you could potentially get more.

That Dylan Cozens kid could be mighty attractive, selected #7 overall in this year’s draft, he was expected to go earlier in the draft, but circumstance (weird pick by Detroit and preference in picks from other teams) he slid to seventh. In nineteen games with Lethbridge Hurricanes, he has thirteen goals and fifteen assists. I believe he’s more NHL ready than other Wild prospects like Jack McBain and Matt Boldy, but that works in the Wild’s favor. First, it gets a bonafide NHL-level prospect right-handed shot in the pipeline in our system and accelerates your rebuild. Second, it gives the other prospects, like Boldy and Khovanov, someone they can follow the example of and learn from. Making the move to the NHL can be such an awkward thing, and if done poorly, can destroy your confidence. Cozens seems like a kid that will make a seamless transition.

If Bill Guerin moves Joel Eriksson Ek, I have to believe that he gets a significant return. I think Joel Eriksson Ek is the heir to the Mikko Koivu throne and is growing in the locker room as a leader. I mention it so much, but he’s an incredible team player. He and Nick Seeler get so much respect for the incredibly small things they do that affect the game, like blocking shots when you’re clearly shaken up. Much like Reinhart with Buffalo, I have to imagine that teams would have to pry Joel Eriksson Ek away.