After a surprising ninety-nine-point season, the Los Angeles Kings qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 2017-18 campaign. GM Rob Blake and Head Coach Todd McLellan appear to have righted the ship in LA, making a return to relevancy quicker than some had expected. There’s a lot to be excited about with the Kings, as they have one of the richest farm systems in all of hockey and a roster ready to take the next step towards contention. Today, the ascending Kings took advantage of a post-Parise/Suter buyout Minnesota Wild team desperate to shed salary, as they acquired star winger Kevin Fiala in exchange for defense prospect Brock Faber, in addition to the 19th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. This gives the Wild four picks in the top-fifty-six selections (19,24,47,56) in the upcoming draft in Montreal.
Kevin Fiala was one of Minnesota’s best players during the 2021-22 season, as he posted career-highs in goals (33), assists (52), and points (85). However, his disappointing playoff performance of just three assists in Minnesota’s only six games was a key reason for his departure, as well as the team’s lack of postseason success. AB-wise, Kevin Fiala registered a +12.15 individual AB score for the 2021-22 season, good for the second-highest on the club behind only Kirill Kaprizov’s incredible +15.43 score. This +12.15 score was Fiala’s highest recorded score since his +12.89 score during the 2017-18 season with the Nashville Predators, as well as the second-highest of his career. As part of this trade, the Los Angeles Kings signed Fiala to a seven-year, $55.125 million dollar contract ($7.875 million AAV). When we ran Fiala through our arbitration analyzer, we projected that his closest comparable was that of Rangers center Mika Zibanejad, who signed an eight-year, $68 million contract on October 10th, 2021. According to our arbitration analyzer, the Kings saved about $650,000 in these negotiations, making this a fair contract that takes Fiala through his prime seasons. Fiala will join an already talented forward group in LA, including franchise cornerstone Anze Kopitar, 2021 free-agent acquisition Phillip Danault, 2nd overall pick Quinton Byfield, and sniper Viktor Arvidsson, as the Kings look to continue their rise to the top of the Pacific Division next season.
After buying out the contracts of former franchise stalwarts Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin determined that the 2021-22 season was do-or-die for his club. Ultimately, after an outstanding one-hundred-thirteen-point season (53-22-7 record), the team ended up falling to the St. Louis Blues in six games in the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. With this occurring, and the new league year officially beginning, the buy-out penalty of $6.371 million for both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter will kick in, and the Wild will be on the hook for nearly $12.8 million worth of dead money against the cap. This penalty increases to nearly $15 million combined during the 2023-24 and 2024-25 seasons, leaving the team in a tough position. According to CapFriendly.com, the Minnesota Wild currently have $6.588 million in cap space heading into the 2022 offseason, which names such as Nick Bjugstad, Nicolas Deslauriers, Jacob Middleton, Jordie Benn, and Marc-Andre Fleury to sign. Kevin Fiala was simply a luxury they couldn’t afford, and a trade appeared imminent over the course of the last several weeks.
However, the return for Fiala is nothing to scoff at. For starters, the Wild saved the $7.875 million AAV they would’ve needed to pay Fiala until he turns thirty-two, and they acquired one of Los Angeles’ top defense prospects in Brock Faber. Brock Faber is a nineteen-year-old defenseman that was drafted forty-fifth overall by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2020 NHL draft and currently plays for the University of Minnesota. A native of Maple Grove Minnesota, Faber will now have a chance to play for his hometown club after putting up some solid numbers with the Golden Gophers. In fifty-six total games, he scored three goals along with twenty-three assists for a total of twenty-six points. He also represented the United States at the 2021 World Junior Championships, where he recorded five assists in seven games, as well as the 2022 Winter Olympics, in which he recorded an assist in four games. Faber recorded a -0.25 Pre-Draft TAB Score. However, his Post-Draft TAB score of +6.25 makes him an intriguing prospect who could see NHL games sooner rather than later due to the Wild’s cap crunch. Along with Faber, the Wild also acquired the 19th overall selection in the 2022 NHL draft. We will examine who they select at pick nineteen, as well as their other draft selections in our post-draft report after its completion.
This trade confirmed a trend in the NHL trade market that will be interesting to watch for the remainder of this off-season. Harman Dayal, a Canucks reporter for theAthletic.com, astutely suggested via Twitter that the trade market for a high-end, top-six player of Fiala’s caliber is a prospect plus a first-round pick and referenced the Sam Reinhart to Florida as another example. We agree fully with Dayal’s opinion and wonder if we will see this in the case of Pierre-Luc Dubois in Winnipeg. It will certainly be something to monitor, as we look forward to seeing how Minnesota elects to use their newly-acquired draft pick during next week’s live, in-person 2022 NHL draft in Montreal. Much more to come.