The Anaheim Ducks off-season looks to be one of busiest in recent memory. And we here at PoaF will be taking a look at potential draft picks, trades, and free agent signings. A running list will be added to each article in case you missed one or want to look back:
There will be lots of talk about the Anaheim Ducks coming into the draft and what they should do with their draft picks. Over the last few weeks, I’ve written about the Ducks potential to move their 10th overall selection in a bid to move up in the draft, as well as to trade for a player. Almost overwhelmingly, history has suggested that this would be a terrible idea. However, I’d like to revisit the last concept. What if the Ducks did move this pick, alongside extra things, for a potential star player who fit in the age bracket of the Ducks core pieces? It should be noted that Ducks GM, Pat Verbeek, stated that Troy Terry, Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale, were players he considered his core. The potential star they could look at putting next them, Kevin Fiala.
Fiala is a 25-year-old player just coming off a point-per-game pace season, so there is an argument that he is already a star. Outside of this big season he’s floated around the 50-point mark, which is a decent low-water line. So why would the Wild even want to move him? It’s a matter of money. Fiala is set to be a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer of $5.1 million. There’s no doubt he’ll likely want a raise given his recent season. To this end, it’s worth noting that one other young star on the Wild, Kirill Kaprizov, is making an AAV of $9 million a season. Even splitting the middle between $5.1 and $9 million might just be too much for the Wild given that the buyout money for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are due to increase by a combined total of ~$8 million. On top of that they still need to look at extending the recently acquired Marc-Andre Fleury or finding a backup to Cam Talbot. There is a chance that the Ducks can help the Wild in every aspect of their troubles.
The Ducks are locked in at 10th overall in the upcoming 2022 NHL Entry Draft. It’s hard to figure out where the Ducks think they sit in the grand scheme of things. There have been comments about building for a long sustainable future, which typically means via the draft. However, Pat Verbeek has also mentioned putting talent around his core forwards. Fiala has the potential to fill both needs, but adding proven talent around his young core, as well as being young enough to remain with the team for 5-6 years. A time frame that would coincide with the scoring peaks of the core group.
It’s worth noting here that Fiala was one of the best wingers in the NHL this past season averaging ~3.1 points per 60 minutes, and presenting ~52.3% Corsi-for and ~56.2% expected goals for percentages (at 5-on-5). Consider that he drove that more or less alone, given that he only played ~40 minutes alongside Kirill Kaprizov. These results weren’t necessarily a one off either. Over the past three seasons, he’s averaged 2.66 points per 60 minutes, ~51.3% Corsi-for and ~53.6% expected goals for percentages. This past season may have lifted the averages, but not dramatically. Additionally, his 12.6% shooting was only slightly above his career averages and a lot more sustainable going forward than the Ducks own Troy Terry (who shot 19.6%).
To pry Fiala away the Ducks could package their 10th overall draft selection with a young player or prospect and either another pick or a lower-level prospect. After the recent trade deadline, the Ducks are somewhat flush with both. First, the Ducks acquired another solid goalie prospect in Calle Clang at the deadline to go alongside Lukas Dostal. Many would have envisioned those two as the 1A/1B starter tandem in the future. However, Dostal isn’t far away from NHL duties and so long as John Gibson is in the fold, he may never become the Ducks starter.
Gibson’s form over the past three seasons is obviously a concern but few would not give him a chance to turn it around. Given that, does Dostal help fill in the gap in the Wild’s plans. He could slot in as a backup next season to Talbot and depending on how he comes on, take the starters role next season when Talbot’s contract run’s it’s course. If the Wild aren’t interested, the Ducks do have players like Jacob Perreault and Brayden Tracey they could add instead. Perhaps a younger roster player like Isac Lundestrom or the oft injured Max Jones.
The other piece of the trade would be dependent on what the Wild desired. The Ducks have numerous second round selections they could spin away, or even the Boston Bruins first rounder in this year’s Entry Draft. Does a package of the 10th overall pick, the Bruins pick (19-22 overall) and Lukas Dostal seem attractive to the Wild team? What about a package including players which might look like the 10th overall pick, Jacob Perreault and Axel Andersson/Benoit-Oliver Groulx?
The Ducks have the pieces to make this trade should the Wild decide they wish to move on from Fiala. The questions are only if the Wild will do that, and if the Ducks see him as a piece who could fit into their Cup contending plans over the next few seasons. One extra wrinkle is that the Ducks would probably like to negotiate a contract extension prior to the trade, but they can easily throw in a late draft pick for the rights to do so if the Wild are getting sticky with the situation. Although that is unlikely. So, who blinks first? Does another team come in with a bigger offer? Can the Ducks even afford this one?
Time will tell, but there feels like there is some inevitability to Fiala being traded. Why not to the Ducks I say.