The Los Angeles Kings acquired high-scoring forward Kevin Fiala from the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday in exchange for their first-round pick in the upcoming draft and prospect Brock Faber.
Fiala is a restricted free agent, but the Kings are expected to sign the Swiss star to a long-term contract extension.
Fiala was one of the most attractive potential acquisitions in the NHL this summer after putting up career highs of 33 goals and 52 assists for the Wild last season. The left wing seems to be a perfect fit on the top line for the Kings, who ended their three-year playoff drought last spring despite scoring fewer goals than every postseason team except Dallas.
“LA, they came in right away and were serious right away,” Minnesota general manager Bill Guerin said. “There was no tire-kicking or feeling-out process. They were serious right away, so it made it easy to do a deal.”
The Wild get the 19th overall pick in the draft along with Faber, the Kings’ second-round pick in 2020 and a star defenceman at the University of Minnesota.
Saddled with the hefty salary cap hits from last summer’s buyouts of left wing Zach Parise and defenceman Ryan Suter, Guerin all but predicted he’d have to trade Fiala to stay under the cap after giving hefty long-term contracts last year to Kirill Kaprizov and Joel Eriksson Ek.
“We’ve been down the road a couple of times with Kevin already,” Guerin said. “He had a great year. We just were not going to be able to do it. We knew that. They knew that. There was just no sense in trying to (mess) around ... and give him a low-ball deal. I think we got fair value. I really do.”
Fiala can become a restricted free agent next month. Realizing his bigger payday would come, he signed a $5.1-million contract for the 2021-22 season and flourished at left wing on a line with rookie Matt Boldy and centre Frederick Gaudreau. One of only two Wild skaters to play in all 82 regular-season games, Fiala blew away his previous career bests in points and assists.
He disappeared in the playoffs for the second straight year, though. Fiala went scoreless in a six-game loss to St. Louis in the first round. Last year, he had one goal in a seven-game ouster by Vegas.
In Los Angeles, Fiala seems likely to slot in alongside veteran centre Anze Kopitar and All-Star right wing Adrian Kempe on the top line of an up-and-coming team. Fiala’s 85 points last season were 18 more than Kopitar, the Kings’ leading scorer.
Fiala had 79 goals and 107 assists in 215 games for the Wild since arriving in a midseason trade with Nashville on Feb. 25, 2019, for Mikael Granlund. Fiala made his NHL debut in March 2015, and the former 11th overall draft pick by the Predators has grown into a four-time 20-goal scorer, doing it in each of the past three seasons with Minnesota.
Faber was just named a captain by Minnesota coach Bob Motzko for the coming season, a sure sign he’s returning to the Gophers for his junior year. The 19-year-old from Maple Grove, Minnesota, has grown into a strong blue line prospect over the past two seasons.
“He was a really high-end prospect, somebody that we think is not far away from playing at all,” Guerin said. “It’ll be a good year for him back there [with the Gophers], and we’ll cross that bridge at the end of the season. You can never have too many defencemen.”