Should the Montreal Canadiens pursue Minnesota Wild restricted free agent-to-be Kevin Fiala on the NHL trade market?
With so many questions surrounding the Canadiens roster and salary cap space – zero as of Wednesday – yet to be determined, general manager Kent Hughes most certainly hasn’t changed his stance on free agency.
“Most people think of free agency as like ‘Kadri’s going to be available’ or ‘Malkin’s going to be available’, but I don’t anticipate the Montreal Canadiens being in that market for a five-star, free agent player,” Hughes said two weeks ago when asked to qualify how the club was planning to be active in free agency. “We’ll look at ways, and there may not be any, but we’ll look at situations where we can make moves to improve our team that we can afford to make, both financially and in line with our (short-term and long-term) interests.”
While the Canadiens may not go big-game hunting, they do have roster and draft commodities that could be attractive on the NHL trade market if they choose that route to improve their team. Improving the team on the NHL trade market could mean adding more talent to the roster or freeing up salary cap space or both.
“The other component for our standpoint that would need to change is that we would need to move players to be active,” the Montreal Canadiens GM said.
If Hughes decides to hit the NHL trade market to add more scoring, he may want to ring Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin ASAP – if he hasn’t already – and see what he’d need to send to Guerin in exchange for Wild winger Kevin Fiala who is already a daily staple in NHL trade rumours. Fiala, is coming off a career year with 85 points (33 G, 52 A) in 82 games with 64 of those points and 26 of the 33 goals coming after Jan. 6. Fiala did however cool down drastically with just three assists and no goals in his team’s six-game series loss to the St. Louis Blues in the first round.
The Stanley Cup playoffs have been an achilles heel during his last two seasons with the Wild with one goal and four assists in 13 games but he’s averaging 0.91 points per game over the last three regular seasons.
Fiala is coming off a one-year arbitration award contract that carried a $5.1 million salary cap hit and is surely in line for a hefty pay raise on his next contract. That’s a major issue for Guerin and the Wild. With five more years of dead-cap charges for buying out Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, including a year at $12.743 million in 2022-23 and $14.743 million in 2023-24 and 2024-25, the Wild have just $8.18 million in salary cap space to re-sign and potentially bring in new players.
“I mean, we’d love to have Kevin back,” Bill Guerin said of the Fiala contract conundrum in his season-ending press conference Tuesday. “I don’t know if it’s going to be possible. But we have to dig into it a little bit and to see what we could possibly do. But there is uncertainty. I’m uncertain. I am.
I mean, hey, look, we can do anything. But at what cost? … There’s two sides to everything, too. There’s what we want and what they want. And if they don’t match up, sometimes there’s not a possibility. I don’t live in a fantasy land either. We’ll see what we can do, and if we can’t do anything, then we move on.”
Moving on will mean finding a partner on the NHL trade market but as of Tuesday, Guerin said he hadn’t started to explore Fiala’s NHL Trade value. However, Guerin did acknowledge that Fiala wouldn’t necessarily be who he’d be shopping. If he chose to keep Fiala, he could use the NHL trade market to move out cap space to sign Fiala.
“I’m not making calls or anything like that; It’s too early for that stuff,” Guerin said. “We could. We could,” Guerin said if he could look to trade others. “Actively, right now, no. Obviously, no one wants to hear from me right now. But yeah, we could. We could. I don’t know if that’s the route we’ll go, but we definitely could.”
If that was the case, could the Canadiens still do some business with the Wild on the NHL trade market?
Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba has long been rumoured to be a cap casualty for the Wild. The 27-year-old right-shot defenseman is entering the final season of five-year contract that carries a $6 million cap hit. Dumba does have a ten-team modified no-trade clause.
It definitely looks like it’s at least worth a call to Guerin for Hughes when he starts to explore the trade market.