Wild have to find a way to keep Kevin Fiala
The Minnesota Wild have not only become one of the NHL’s best teams, they have become one of its most exciting teams. The past two seasons have seen the Wild score goals like never before in franchise history, and the top line duo of Kirill Kaprizov (their first 100-point player) and Mats Zuccarello gets most of the attention for it. And for good reason. They are exceptional players individually and as a duo, and have helped completely transform the outlook and style of the team.
But they are not the only reasons for it.
The Wild have also developed another dominant scoring duo recently in Kevin Fiala and rookie Matt Boldy.
It could create a little bit of a headache for them this offseason as it relates to Fiala.
Boldy is still a rookie and on his entry-level contract, which is exactly what the Wild need right now given their future salary cap outlook. They need talented, productive players that do not cost a lot of money. Young, homegrown players are the best way to get that.
But Fiala is a bit of a different monster here. He is a pending restricted free agent and will be coming off of a contract that currently carries a salary cap hit of more than $5 million per season. He is going to command -- and should be able to get -- a significant raise based on his play both this season, and since arriving in Minnesota. Fiala was one of the major additions in the very brief and tumultuous Paul Fenton era, and has not only met all of the expectations the team had for him, but also exceeded them.
After his five-assist performance on Friday night Fiala is now up to 32 goals, 50 assists, and 82 points in 78 games this season, while also posting strong possession numbers. He has become a complete player and a major piece of the Wild’s roster. Since the joining the Wild he has 78 goals and 183 points in 211 regular season games, which averages out to around 30 goals and 70 points per 82 games. That is not only top-line production, that is outstanding top-line production.
Given that he still has a year of team control before he is an unrestricted free agent keeping him should be a no-brainer, at least in the short-term.
But starting next season the Wild have some really complicated salary cap situations to juggle given all of the dead money they have going to the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts. More than $12 million in dead money to be exact. As of now Minnesota only has $8 million in salary cap space to work with this season with only 17 players under contract. It is not a stretch to think that Fiala could command at least $7-8 million on his next contract given his level of production, as well as the fact he is in the thick of his prime years in the NHL.
The good news is other than Fiala and Marc-Andre Fleury, the Wild do not have any other major players with expiring contracts that need new deals. Kaprizov, Zuccarello, Joel Eriksson Ek, Ryan Hartman, and most of their key defenders are all signed long-term. But it is still going to be a challenge, and another contract is going to have to move out to make room for Fiala’s new deal and completing an entire NHL roster.
They are not going to move Kaprizov, Zuccarello, Eriksson Ek, or Hartman (nor should they) but whether it is a Marcus Foligno, or Jordan Greenway, or Tyson Jost, or perhaps more significantly one of the big money defenders (Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin?) they are going to have to find a way to create room to keep Fiala. He has not only become one of their most productive players, he has become a key building block to the team’s identity and one of its absolute best players. He is a player you keep and build around, and as long as they have their duos of Kaprizov-Zuccarello, and Fiala-Boldy in their top-six they are going to remain a powerhouse offensive team.