ST PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Wild's bumpy ride with forward Kevin Fiala has a Hollywood ending.
Team officials confirmed on Wednesday that the star forward is headed for Tinseltown, having been traded to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a first-round pick (19th overall) in next week's NHL Draft and University of Minnesota defenseman Brock Faber.
Fiala is fresh off his best season as a professional — career highs in goals (33), assists (52) and points (85) — but his struggles in the postseason, as well as the amount of money it would have taken for the cap-strapped Wild to retain him set the stage for an offseason split that could not be avoided. On Thursday, the Kings announced they signed Fiala to a seven-year contract averaging nearly $7.9 million per year.
"Kevin has turned into a really special player here in Minnesota and we wish them (Fiala and his fiancé Jessica) nothing but the best in Los Angeles," said Wild GM Bill Guerin during a media availability on Wednesday.
Saddled with the hefty salary cap hits from last summer’s buyouts of left wing Zach Parise and defenseman 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. The Wild GM said teams had asked about Fiala and his availability, but the Kings were transparent about their interest right away.
"There was no tire-kicking or feeling-out process, they were serious right away, so it made it easy to do a deal," he said
The Wild will now have two first-round picks in next week's draft, which begins Thursday, July 7, as they now possess the Kings' No. 19 pick and their own pick at No. 24. In total, Minnesota has eight picks in the draft including four selections in the first two rounds.
"We're extremely excited to have another first-round pick this year — we'll be picking in the first round two times for the second year in a row — and to get the rights to a really good, young defenseman that we think highly of," Guerin said.
Faber, who represented the United States at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and has extensive experience on the international stage, had 14 points as a sophomore last season with the Gophers and was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
Wednesday was a huge day for Faber. Along with the trade to his hometown Wild, Gophers coach Bob Motzko announced that the Maple Grove native would be one of three team captains for the upcoming season. In 2020, the Kings selected Faber in the second round, making him the first Minnesotan taken in the draft that year.
"I think he was a really high-end prospect, somebody that we think is not far away from playing (in the Wild organization)," Guerin said about Faber. "I know he's going back for his third year with the U, but in all actuality Brock could probably play sooner than that."
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