It took a few years, but Minnesota Wild forward Kevin Fiala is finally starting to blossom into the superstar the Nashville Predators hoped he would be when they took him 11th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. His transformation from a possible first-round underachiever to budding superstar has him set for a massive payday.
Fiala is a nightly highlight reel who should be in consideration for Selke award votes. His sizzling play passes the “eye test” for any fan who watches. His numbers on the score sheet are equally impressive (16 goals and 40 points in 47 games). This kid is special and deserves to be paid like he is special. Oh, and he is 25 years old and just now entering his prime.
Go ahead and marinate on that.
From the moment that Fiala arrived in St. Paul, fans could see that we had something special. In just his second season with the Wild, Fiala led the team in scoring (23-31-54). His play down the stretch run propelled the team to a playoff bubble appearance in the COVID-19 shortened season.
During his white-hot second half to the season (14 goals and 26 points in the final 18 games) Fiala and his spectacular hands electrified fans night after night. The only thing that could slow him down was COVID stopping league play.
During the 2020-2021 season, Fiala scored 20 goals and 40 points in 50 games and was handsomely rewarded with an one-year prove it contract. After a slow start, Fiala is about to force the Wild to show him the money.
Paying him what sounds like a no brainer right? Re-sign this absolute stud long-term and live happily ever after.
Am I right?
It’s not that simple.
The Wild do not have a ton of cap space next year. Unless the team makes some sacrifices in the near future, Fiala could be playing elsewhere after this season. I hate the thought of this.
Fiala will enter this offseason as an arbitration eligible, restricted free agent. With the NHL trade deadline right around the corner could the team move him ? I do not see this happening but who knows. Along with every other Wild fan, I would be shocked if this went down.
Locked into the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter albatross contracts for the better part of a decade, the team was pretending to be contenders. Even so, the Wild have not been afraid to go big at the trade deadline.
In past seasons the Wild have gone in on players like Jason Pominville, Martin Hanzal (worst trade ever), Chris Stewart, Devan Dubnyk, and Matt Moulson, to name a few. The team has also not been afraid to ship out players and go younger and cheaper, which is exactly what the team did in acquiring Fiala.
The aftermath of the Mikael Granlund/Fiala trade had former GM Paul Fenton looking like a genius (I know, that’s funny). Fiala has become a face of the franchise while Granlund has not come close to living up to expectations.
Here we are in the second half of the 2022 season and the Wild are once again looking at how they can make a push for the Stanley Cup. The difference between this year and previous seasons is they are no longer pretenders.
Armed with Kirill Kaprizov, Joel Eriksson Ek, Matthew Boldy, and Fiala, this team is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
General Manager Bill Guerin has some very difficult decisions to make, some sooner than later. Re-signing Fiala had better be on the top of his To-Do list, and finding ways to navigate his lack of space a close second.
It’s time to lock Fiala up through his prime years and be prepared to shell out the cash required to do so. Doing this will easily require around $7 million per season (most likely over 5 years) so its time to get creative. Not paying Fiala will set the team back.
Do the right thing and pay the man.