One of Wild’s best players would not return, and it was the team that kicked him out.
Cash-strapped Wilde was unable to secure a new contract for winger Kevin Viala and traded the 30-goal goalscorer to Los Angeles on Wednesday in exchange for first-round pick and Gophers defender Brock Faber.
Viala will reportedly get a seven-year deal from Kings worth about $55 million.
“We don’t have a lot of space,” said general manager Bill Guerin, who knew during the season that the team would reach that result with Villala. “Honestly, to keep him, we had to trade a three-man or two and drain your team more. Then the next year, we’re into it more.
“It just didn’t fit.”
This math has been straightforward for some time, Which makes Villa’s departure seem likely, if not inevitable.
A severe cover crunch has been brewing since the wild Zach Barris and Ryan Sutter bought it last yearwith the cost of the acquisitions increasing from about $4.7 million to nearly $13 million.
Add contracts already on the books, and Wild has limited purchasing power—less than $7 million this summer, to be exact. That kind of budget has made keeping Villa unrealistic, especially given that the team wants to re-sign goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleuri and defender Jake Middleton. Wild had to beg to stick with Fiala, a decision Guerin indicated would have resulted in a different hole in the roster.
From the team’s core, Villala was the only player on an expired deal and is still considered a restricted free agent after agreeing to a one-year, $5.1 million contract before last season.
But Wild is still paying a heavy price to charge Fiala, and this loses its dynamic lead in its prime.
“Kevin has really turned out to be a standout player in the past two years with Minnesota,” Gerrin said.
After a slow start to the season, the 25-year-old winger achieved career highs in goals (33), assists (52) and points (85) while filling an impressive streak with rookie Matt Boldy and Frederic Goudreau.
His 12-point streak tied for the longest run in franchise history, and Fiala established a team record with five assists per game and four assists/points in a period. He also had the second most goals and points in the NHL from April 8 through the end of the regular season before scoring three assists in six playoff games against St. Louis.
In general, in 215 matches with Wild, Villala scored 79 goals and 107 assists for 186 points. He has led the organization in all three categories since joining the team at The February 2019 trade that sent Mikael Granlund to Nashville.
When asked how Wild would compensate for Viala’s attack, Guerin said, “We don’t know. We’ll have to play games and see how the guys produce. We might be able to. We don’t know.”
Los Angeles showed immediate interest in Villala, Guerin said, and the Kings were serious about pursuing them.
Guerin didn’t feel the need to wait and thought he got a fair value in the deal. The number one rider from Los Angeles is No. 19, with Guerin mentioning how hard it is to let go of high team selections. Besides her first group at 24, Wild has eight total picks in the draft, which begins next Thursday in Montreal.
In Faber, Wild is adding alum from the U.S. national team development program that won a gold with the U.S. team at the 2021 World Junior Championships and was drafted into the second round (45th overall) in 2020 by the Kings.
Chosen as captain for Gopher on Wednesday, the Maple Grove native finished Two goals and 12 assists in 32 games last season as a sophomore I played in the Olympics.
“He’s excited at some point because he can play for his hometown team,” said Guerin, who considers Faber a “high probability” not far from the NHL.
Choosing the elect to become a pro will help Wild overcome their salary restrictions, which will become even more stringent.
Fast forward another year and the Parise and Suter purchases will consume nearly $15 million of Wild cover space for two seasons.
Time will tell how the team deals with this predicament, but its future no longer includes Villa.
“We knew we wouldn’t be able to do that,” Guerin said. “We knew it. They knew it. There is no sense in trying… to match this and fit that and give them a low-ball deal. It wouldn’t work out. We knew we were going to have to move it.”
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