Kevin Fiala must be a name for penguins to keep an eye on

Kevin Fiala must be a name for penguins to keep an eye on

Before penguins a lot of unknown variables. While the stature of Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang looms large too, it shouldn’t be ignored that Bryan Rust has almost certainly valued himself from the Pittsburgh salary cap structure. Pens really can’t push the wings as much as Rust can control on the edge of free agency, considering he’s been at or near a point per game production rate for the past three seasons and will hit the open market.

While Rickard Rakell could (and should!) have an option to return, the trade deadline is also moving toward unrestricted free agency. They call players like Rakell “rented” for a reason. They tend to go to the market and drift away to play elsewhere after they have been chosen by a deadline.

That might leave the Pens the best six-wingers of the steady and amazing Jake Guenzel, the much-injured Jason Zucker, and… well, maybe they’re bringing back a mix of Evan Rodrigues, Danton Heinen and/or Kasperi Kapanen from the varying levels of their free agency. It makes sense that Pittsburgh could very much be in the market for an extra scoring wing, whether it’s trying to fit in Rust or Rakell or looking elsewhere to boost the talent level.

Teams with maximum space need to pounce and take advantage of good players away from teams without space for cover. This is a new area for Pittsburgh, which has not had much space at all. They have close to $29 million to work with now (although re-signing or replacing Malik and Letang will eat into that) but that means the Pens could finally be the team that gets the “Devon Toews to Round Two Selectors” from the trade from Cover crunch team.

One of the top targets this year for this type of scenario is Minnesota player Kevin Viala. As SBN sister blog Hockey Wilderness reluctantly admitted, “It seems likely that Kevin Fiala won’t be there.” [the Minnesota] At the beginning of next season, he will be enjoying hockey elsewhere for some other teams and some other fans.”

Fiala is close to restricted free agency, and one year away from hitting the open market in the UFA. He really made his stride in 2021-22 with Wild, scoring highs in goals (33), assists (52) and points (85). Fiala is also young, and her birthday turns 26 in the summer. By comparison, Pittsburgh only had one regular striker in the squad younger than Viala at 2021-22 (Cabanin).

As HW pointed out, it could be a similar trade to Fiala as the one that sent Buffalo’s Sam Reinhart to Florida last summer. Florida succumbed to a first round in the future plus a very good prospect of goalkeeper (Devon Levy) to seal the deal. Another somewhat similar deal cited by HW was where Montreal sent winger Artturi Lehkonen (this summer’s RFA player) to Colorado for a second-round pick and a very good defensive prospect in Justin Barron to return to the Habs.

If the off-season trade value for Fiala is close to that of Reinhart or Lehkonen, pens should be above that to inquire with Minnesota about swing trade.

But wait, you might be asking yourself, why could Pittsburgh get involved in getting Fiala and maybe pay him so much when it looks like they can’t race to take on Rust? It’s a good question to ask. An important distinction is that Fiala is four years younger than Rust and his restrained condition this summer also stands out compared to Rust skating on a big payday at the moment.

And while everyone loves what Rust brings to the table – and thankfully – Rust has played more than 70 games in a single season just once in his career and has the highest point in a single season at 58. Villa just put 85 games in, and he could have been prepared to stay on that level for years to come.

Minnesota is in crisis and needs young, cheap talent in the NHL. They already have a pickle in defence, so a prospect like Pierre-Olivier Joseph probably doesn’t mean much when you consider their organizational depth scheme. Pittsburgh may not be a great business partner, but they have Sam Boleyn and his pedigree as well as an amazing second half of the AHL season. and a first-round pick (#21 overall) in 2022. And other prospects close to NHL work such as Drew O’Connor, Radim Zohorna and Filip Hallander.

Any of them should be on the table to offer Wild some young, cheap striker options that are ready for the NHL with the upside. Bill Guerin has been outside the Pittsburgh Foundation since the summer of 2019, but he will likely get very good information from his connections if he needs it in and out of the organization (like Jim Rutherford or Patrick Alvin) about these players to fill in any of them. Gaps that may exist in loyal scouts in Minnesota.

If the pens find that the price of Rust and Rakell may be off their mark, or they just want to get younger and increase the lineup with a huge wing, a stand like Fiala and the Wild is definitely worth looking into.

Would a bundle of Poulin and a 2022 first-rounder and maybe even one from O’Connor/Zohorna/Hallander be enough for Guerin to pull the trigger? Possible and possible not.

It’s hard to call a deal, but on the face of it, this would fulfill Minnesota’s goals of acquiring cost-effective young talent who could contribute as soon as possible next season (Paulin) to align with the future first-round pick. And then pens can turn around and allocate some of their ample space to securing Fiala on a long-term contract, taking advantage of it being a restricted free agent only this year.

It’s no secret that teams still surviving in the playoffs now like Colorado (with Toews and Lehkonen mentioned above), Florida (Reinhart) and Carolina (Brady Skajee, Jesper Kotkanyemi, Teofu Travanjen) have used available cover space as a weapon to add young NHL talent to boost their team For a good value. As of right now anyway, Pittsburgh has that kind of space to try and use to quickly strengthen their current team.

It may not seem like a perfect fit at the moment, but a lot can happen when an organization has a salary cap. Bringing in young, elite, game-breaking talent is never a bad idea if it can be pulled.

The pens have been doing well this off-season in everything they do to look outside the box and try to use the advantages they have to build the best squad around Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. It might not be Kevin Fiala, but again with enough aggressive action for how Pittsburgh wants to shape their team, it just might be a path worth going down.

2022-05-20 12:00:00

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