Apparently Bill Guerin’s offer to Kevin Fiala was good enough after all. The Minnesota Wild have re-signed the restricted free agent forward to a two-year, $6MM contract. The deal carries a $2.5MM salary in 2019-20 and a $3.5MM salary in 2020-21. Fiala will still be an RFA when the deal expires.
Fiala, 23, had been in negotiations with former Minnesota GM Paul Fenton when he was fired earlier this offseason, meaning things were put on hold for a time as the team conducted its search for a new leader. Guerin, hired in late August, can now wash his hands of the RFA market after signing Fiala, his last remaining player without a contract. The young forward will now be able to participate in training camp, though as Michael Russo of The Athletic pointed out yesterday, may miss a day or two as he waits for a work visa.
Originally selected 11th overall in 2014, Fiala started his career with the Nashville Predators organization (under Fenton, who was serving as the GM of the Milwaukee Admirals at the time) and quickly made an impact. After dominating the minor leagues he graduated to the NHL and showed that he could be a regular in the top-six and contribute offensively, scoring 23 goals and 48 points in his sophomore season. Last year after getting off to a slower start he was targeted by Fenton at the deadline and acquired by the Wild in exchange for Mikael Granlund. Though he registered just seven points in 19 games for Minnesota down the stretch, he will be expected to be a huge part of the offense going forward.
Even under new management, Fiala’s importance to the team is obvious. If the Wild are to find any success transitioning from their old core to the new group, the 23-year old needs to be front and center as a goal scoring threat. A $3MM salary is proof that they believe he can do that, especially coming off a 13-goal, 39-point year.
For the Wild this deal may seem a tad expensive given how Fiala performed last season, but it at least gets him into camp and will keep him under team control. Unlike some of the other restricted free agents signed this summer, he’ll still be two years from unrestricted free agency at the end of the contract. While his back-heavy deal does guarantee a qualifying offer of $3.5MM in 2021, that is not nearly as prohibitive for the team as some of the other deals. Even after inking Fiala the Wild have some excess cap room to work with this season and could potentially be involved in another transaction at some point before the season begins.