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Post-season Send Off: Kevin Fiala

Forward had a career year but has an uncertain future in Minnesota as offseason begins

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

By almost any measure, Kevin Fiala just wrapped up one of the finest individual seasons in Wild history. 

Fiala's 33 goals marked the first time in his NHL career he reached the 30-goal plateau, and his 52 assists are the third-most in a single season in franchise history -- trailing only Kirill Kaprizov's 61 and Mats Zuccarello's 55 this season. 

And to think, he did much of that damage since the early part of January, when he was paired with rookie forward Matt Boldy on a line centered by Freddy Gaudreau, a trio which formed one of the most explosive lines in the league down the stretch.

Despite the career year and Fiala's emergence as one of the team's best offensive players, there's no guarantee he's back in a Wild uniform next season. 

Minnesota's salary cap situation becomes significantly more complicated for the next three seasons, and Fiala's status as a restricted free agent, combined with his 85-point season, could put him in a financial bracket the Wild simply cannot afford. 

Not that it won't try, though.

"There's uncertainty," said Wild General Manager Bill Guerin. "I mean, we'd love to have Kevin back. 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. That's a good word for it."

That feeling of uncertainty was actually first brought up by Fiala at his season-ending media availability earlier this month. 

"Honestly, we'll just have to see what happens. I can't give you anything more," Fiala said. "I mean, I'm fine with it. I'm relaxed right now to be honest. I mean, there's nothing I can do."

Video: Season wrap up: Fiala

Fiala did everything he could to help propel the Wild to home ice in its First Round playoff series against the St. Louis Blues. 

Beginning on Jan. 6, the night Boldy made his NHL debut, Fiala scored 26 goals and 64 points over the final 51 games of the regular season. 

Compare that to his first couple of months, where Fiala had seven goals and 21 points in the first 31 games of the season, played mostly next to Gaudreau and a rotating cast of characters on the other wing. 

But it wasn't just offensively where Fiala's game took another step this season, it was also in the defensive end, especially later in the year. Along with Gaudreau, Fiala was also an effective penalty killer.

Video: SEA@MIN: Wild score 5 straight in 2nd period

"I think defensively, I thought we were pretty good 5-on-5. It was strange, especially when Boldy came to our lineup, we were really good 5-on-5 and PK as well," Fiala said. "Didn't play PK before and this year I've been playing that too. That's also a defensive role. So [I was] feeling pretty comfortable in those situations."

Unfortunately for the Wild, that success didn't translate in the postseason, where Fiala had a frustrating six-game run against the Blues.

Fiala tallied three assists in those games but was unable to light the lamp, going his longest stretch of games without a goal in five months.

"Yeah," Fiala answered when asked if frustration set in against St. Louis. "In the playoffs, it feels like you really want to be the difference and want to make the difference every game. Every game is so big. 

"In the season you can kind of be more quiet ... because it's [an 82-game] season. Six games, who knows? 

"If we would have 25 games, maybe it was just bad timing. I don't know what to say. I don't think it was so much mentally. Just didn't work. I didn't have so many chances to be honest, but I had some chances, especially in the first two, three games. There it could have maybe changed."

Video: MIN@MTL: Zuccarello tees up Fiala for PPG

Still, that lack of playoff success will have little bearing on what Guerin and the Wild think of Fiala moving forward, and any potential future he may have in Minnesota.

"I know Kevin. You know what? He didn't have a great playoffs but that happens too. There are a lot of good players out there that go through a couple years where they don't have good playoffs," Guerin said. "Unfortunate, but that's the human side of the game too. It's not automatic. It's not guaranteed. Even some of the great playoff performers of the game have an off year here and there. It was just unfortunate and not great timing. But it happened."

Guerin said the Wild can do whatever it wants this offseason, but all of that comes with a cost. 

What that cost is, and whether the Wild is willing to pay it is yet to be seen. 

"I'm not prioritizing. I'm just telling you what we want. We want Kevin back. We'd love to him have him back. I don't know if that's possible," Guerin said. "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."

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