With just three teams that remain in the quest for the Stanley Cup, the offseason has begun for 29 other clubs. As the days go on, we continue to hear about impactful forwards that are rumored to be available and meet the needs of the New York Islanders. As it stands, Johnny Gaudreau and Filip Forsberg are set to become free agents, and Kevin Fiala, Alex Debrincat, and David Pastrnak are all rumored to be available via the trade market, some a little more available than others. Zooming the lens in a little closer to the Islanders' situation, it makes the most sense for GM Lou Lamoriello to acquire Fiala more than the rest of the bunch previously named.
The Islanders have a few boxes to check off. They need a first-line scorer to couple with Mathew Barzal and Fiala fits that bill. He scored 33 goals and 85 points last season and was on pace to score 30 goals in the 2020-21 season potting 20 in 50 games, so history suggests he'll continue to be a multi 30-goal scorer. And he did so while on a line centered by Frederick Gaudreau and flanked by Matt Boldy. Fine players, but not exactly elite talent (or in Boldy's case, not yet).
The reason Fiala makes so much sense is because of what it will take to acquire him. The Minnesota Wild are in a cap crunch due to the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts increasing for 2022-23, counting $12,743,588 against the cap. Michael Russo of The Athletic suggests that because GM Bill Guerin doesn't have much wiggle room, the price for Fiala might not be as high as you think and went as far as to say a package of Arthur Kaliyev and the 19th overall pick may be "too rich" to retrieve Fiala when suggested to him:
"I think it would be good from the Wild’s end. It may be too hefty from a Kings’ perspective, but I don’t know. I’d just be throwing you know what against the wall, and I don’t like to toss names out there unless I have a good sense or information that the Wild are actually in on that player. How pricy Fiala becomes will depend, I suppose, on whether Guerin can get a bidding war going for him. For instance, if the Wild could get a top-10 pick for Fiala, they may even consider that straight up. If that’s the sentiment, would the No. 19 pick require another asset? I’d think so."- Michael Russo
Of course, there are bidding wars to consider, and if so the Islanders will likely stay involved and that's when things can get more expensive. But on the surface, it appears Fiala's price point is at least starting lower than what it would take to acquire a Pastrnak or DeBrincat. You might be asking "why wouldn't Lamoriello just sign Gaudreau or Forsberg via free agency? It only costs money!" Well, that's true, however, that means Lamoriello runs the risk of losing out on one of those players if he's outbid, or like Artemi Panarin did in 2019, opts for another team for his own reasons despite submitting a better offer.
If the Islanders can acquire Fiala for the 13th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and Kieffer Bellows, or if they prefer the player with a higher ceiling in Oliver Wahlstrom maybe they settle for a second-round pick.
Again, Fiala checks one of the Islanders' boxes. He's a sure upgrade for the first line to play with Barzal that can score 30-goals. However, that's just one of the boxes the Islanders need to check off this summer, and it's arguably not even the most important. The Islanders desperately need to find Noah Dobson a running mate in the top-four on their blue line. Fiala's cost in assets appears to be far less than what any other player will fetch on the market and gives Lamoriello a lot more to play with to fulfill all of the Islanders' needs this summer in order to return to the playoffs and hopefully Stanley Cup contention and if that's going to happen, it'll take some brilliant asset management to do so. From this perspective, acquiring Fiala seems like a good start.