It wasn’t a trade we expected, but in terms of name recognition, Minnesota and Nashville just pulled off a pretty nice swap with Kevin Fiala joining the Wild in exchange for Mikael Granlund.
It’s an intriguing move, with Granlund being the more established player and Fiala having more offensive upside – assuming he can take things to the next level.
Let’s start with the Predators, since they’re the team going for a Stanley Cup right now. In Granlund, they get a very smart offensive player who can add to Nashville’s attack, which had been good but not great. While Granlund isn’t a star, or the type of player who can necessarily put a team over the top, he makes the Predators better and perhaps most importantly, he’s not a strict rental. Granlund is still under contract for one more season after this, so Nashville will get two cracks at the Cup with the talented Finn in the lineup.
With Brian Boyle already acquired, Nashville can trot out a pretty nice group of forwards and Granlund’s versatility will help out. He can be a very good second-liner on this Predators squad and obviously the goal is to go all the way with this group.
For Minnesota, Fiala arrives with a load of high-end skill, but consistency has been an issue early in his career. He broke through the 20-goal mark last year for the first time in his NHL career, but this season has been more of a struggle. Fiala has 10 goals through 64 games and, barring a huge run with his new team, will see his offensive totals drop from last year. That’s not a super-encouraging sign for a 22-year-old, but perhaps Minnesota can be the change of scenery that Fiala needs. Wild GM Paul Fenton is gathering some nice young skill guys lately, with Ryan Donato already in the fold from the Charlie Coyle deal, so there is a clear plan for Minnesota to get more talented in the future. Will it pay off? That’s the big gamble for Fenton and his crew, but either way it will take a bit of patience from a fan base that unfortunately has put up with a lot of good-not-great teams over the years.
Fiala, who is coming off his entry-level deal this summer, will get a nice tryout in Minnesota and that will determine what kind of second contract he earns in the NHL. The talent is there, it’s just a matter of honing it now.
For Nashville, the time is now and the Preds know it. Winnipeg is the target in the playoffs and the Predators needed more consistent depth now than Fiala could give them. Granlund will help the collective.