Wild prepared to build around loss of high-scoring Fiala

Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune/Star Tribune/TNS
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The Wild won't look the same next season, not after trading away its second-best scorer.

But the loss of Kevin Fiala could end up being the only significant change for the team. If so, that means the Wild returns the bulk of the lineup that finished top-five in the NHL with its most productive performance in franchise history.

"Right now, I'm pretty happy with where we are," General Manager Bill Guerin said. "But, like I've always said, if we can make our team better, I will."

That opportunity is on deck.

For the first time in three years, the draft won't be a virtual event, with picks being rattled off at Bell Centre in Montreal starting Thursday when the first round kicks off. This also brings GMs back to the draft floor, where trade talks can intensify.

Then, on July 13, the free-agent signing period opens, and so does the shopping spree.

Not everyone, though, has the same wallet.

After factoring in the buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, which jump from approximately $4.7 million to almost $13 million, the Wild has less than $7 million in available salary cap space, according to capfriendly.com. Fortunately for the team, the majority of last season's roster is under contract: 11 forwards, six defensemen and a goalie after forward Connor Dewar signed a two-year, $1.6 million deal in June.

What's more, the most critical decision of the offseason has already been made.

Because of a limited budget, the Wild didn't have the capital to keep Fiala even though he was coming off a 33-goal, 85-point campaign. The team moved him to Los Angeles, where the 25-year-old Fiala received a lavish seven-year, $55.125 million contract, and the Wild secured assets valuable to the team while dealing with the rising cost of the Parise and Suter buyouts: a first-round draft pick and prospect in Gophers defenseman and Maple Grove native Brock Faber.

Now, the Wild is saddled with eight picks in the draft, including two in the first round and four in the top 56. The Wild also had a pair of first-round picks last year when the team selected goalie Jesper Wallstedt and defenseman Carson Lambos.

"It's extremely important," Guerin said. "We need younger guys. We need guys that don't make millions and millions of dollars. We just have to do it that way, and I think for long-term success as well we have to keep adding to our prospect pool."

With that in mind, an internal candidate such as Marco Rossi might help fill out the lineup in Fiala's absence. The team could also bring in another forward before next season, but the Wild needs its cap space to try to re-sign goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and defenseman Jake Middleton.

Although the Wild has Middleton's rights since he is a restricted free agent, Fleury is an unrestricted free agent and gets to choose where he signs. Guerin said he didn't have an answer from Fleury yet, but Guerin has had conversations with Fleury's agent.

If the Wild can't bring back Fleury, the team could find a backup to play alongside Cam Talbot in free agency or even via trade.

Once that position is locked in, the Wild reaches a resolution with Middleton and potentially adds a forward, the team could be set for training camp. Personnel can still evolve, but the shuffle would be discretionary.

"It really depends on if other teams see players on our team that they like and they want to pursue them," Guerin said. "Then I'll listen to everything."