Why the Wild had to trade Mikael Granlund

Minnesota traded their best playmaker to the Nashville Predators.
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In the final hour before Monday's NHL trade deadline, Minnesota Wild general manager Paul Fenton sent another core player – Mikael Granlund – packing in a trade to the Nashville Predators.

For some in the State of Hockey, it's been a tough pill to swallow as fan favorites Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and now Granlund are no longer wearing forest green.

But the reality is that that trio was part of a Wild core that never vaulted Minnesota to the top. Fenton was hired to make changes and he's delivering in that regard.

Why did they trade Granlund?

Granlund is without a doubt the most gifted playmaker on the Wild. Since Bruce Boudreau's arrival, Granlund has been a consistent 60-point player.

He's always been a solid distributor, but he's never been able to consistently put the puck in the net, which is an area the Wild need help in.

The Finnish forward also has one more year left on his contract that'll pay him $6.5 million in 2019-20, so he's due for a hefty raise and with the Wild handicapped by the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter contracts, Minnesota doesn't want to bogged down by another big deal.

Who's Kevin Fiala?

Fiala, 22, was once considered one of the best prospects in the NHL when Nashville took him with the 11th overall pick in 2014 NHL Draft.

Funny enough, that's who Fenton used to work for and he was the one who went to the podium to announce that pick at the 2014 draft.

He played his first full season in 2016-17 at just 20 years old. During the playoffs that year, Fiala suffered a gruesome leg injury that saw him stretchered off the ice.

Despite the injury, he came back the next season and scored 23 goals (48 points) in 80 games.

Fast-forward time to this season and Fiala has been a bit snake bitten, with just 10 goals in 64 games. His 7.6 shooting percentage suggests he's been a bit unlucky. 

However, his advanced stats suggest he's still been a positive player in terms of driving possession, and other advanced stats show that when he's on the ice he's putting more shots-on-goal than he's allowing. 

In fact, his career Corsi For Percentage, which measures shot attempt differential, is 55 percent Granlund's is at 50 percent, so despite Fiala being four years younger, some numbers suggest that he's better at creating offense than Granlund.

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What's his contract?

Fiala is a restricted free agent this summer, meaning the Wild still control his rights. He owns a cap hit of $863,000 and it's likely that he'll get a bridge deal. 

What's a bridge deal?

A bridge deal is typical when a player has had some success on their rookie contract but a team gives that player a shorter-term deal to give them a chance to prove they were more than a flash in the pan. 

It's a safer bet than locking them into a long-term contract. 

The Wild did exactly that with Matt Dumba in the summer of 2016 before inking him to the five-year contract that he signed last summer.

I'm not Fiala's agent, but I'd doubt he'd make more than $3 million per year during that bridge deal. 

What's the longterm plan?

After trading Niederreiter, Coyle, Granlund and re-signing Eric Staal, the Wild have about $16 million in cap space for next season, according to Cap Friendly.

Now they'll have to sign some of their restricted free agents like Fiala, Ryan Donato and Joel Eriksson Ek, but all three could be in line for bridge deals. 

That means nothing will break the bank and it should give them enough flexibility to sign additional free agents.

Maybe the Wild make a run at Minnesota natives Anders Lee or Brock Nelson if the Islanders let them walk? That remains to be seen, but regardless, Fenton is putting this team in position to add in free agency this summer.

The Wild are still in the playoff hunt now, but the gap between the juggernauts in the Western Conference and the Wild is probably too big to overcome.

Fenton is doing what he was brought here to do: shake things up and get this turned around quickly. 

He's putting a ton of trust in Fiala and Donato to have better careers than they did with their previous teams.

The first-year GM's assessment could be proved wrong in the long run, but what's certain is that the Wild haven't won a playoff series in four years, haven't been to the Western Conference Finals in over 15 years and have never been to a Stanley Cup.

The next era of the Wild is being constructed.

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