Now entering what will be his 3rd full season with the Minnesota Wild, Kevin Fiala once again finds himself in a contract year. He has produced at a 30-goal and 60-point pace those previous two seasons, but that hasn’t been quite enough to satisfy management yet.
They clearly weren’t afraid to offer big term and big dollars to Kaprizov and Eriksson Ek this summer. The similarities between those players are that they both possess a unique skill set with very few weaknesses that can thrive with basically anyone they are playing with.
Kaprizov, of course, has so much skill that he can likely produce 60+ points with 2nd or 3rd line forwards around him. Meanwhile, Eriksson Ek will continue to shut down opposing teams’ top players and provide an extra 15-20 goals whatever line he is on.
Fiala has shown that he can struggle to produce consistently at times and hurt the team with untimely turnovers and penalties. From what we can see, the team firmly believes that these weaknesses need to be addressed.
They want to be sure that if they are committing on a 5-8 year contract that pays him in the $6-7 million range, they are signing a player that can score a bit more consistently while shoring up some of the weaknesses that keep him from being an elite player.
It certainly can’t be denied that he is one of the best transitional puck carriers and pure shooters the Wild have ever had. Those traits are incredibly valuable, especially in this era of hockey.
So, the Wild are defiantly taking a risk by bringing Fiala back to RFA status next year. However, it seems they would rather run the risk of him improving and needing to pay him for that improved performance rather than giving him an extension now and seeing his performance level out as an inconsistent one-dimensional scoring threat.
With the upcoming cap crunch from the Parise and Suter buyouts which will be hitting hard next summer, his future with the team isn’t guaranteed. If he improves to levels not yet seen, he may be too expensive for the Wild to keep around.
I still believe that the best case scenario for both sides is that Fiala has a very productive and consistent season that leads to a long-term extension with the Wild.
Simply put, Fiala in a incredible talent, but just needs to tweak a few of his weak spots to show the team he can be relied upon in all situations.
If he shows he can do that this season, only the sky is the limit.