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After struggles in playoffs, Kevin Fiala knows his future with Wild is uncertain

After finishing the regular season with 33 goals and 52 assists, Fiala did not score a goal in the playoffs.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild
St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington makes a save as Minnesota Wild left wing Kevin Fiala looks for the rebound in Game 5 of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 10 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Fiala scored 33 goals during the regular season, but did not score a goal against the Blues.
Matt Blewett / USA Today Sports

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Wild winger Kevin Fiala noted the small sample size when talking about his most recent playoff struggles. After the best regular season in franchise history, the Wild fell 4-2 in an opening-round, best-of-7 series with the St. Louis Blues.

Who knows what could have happened if the Wild made a deep playoff run instead? Maybe then Fiala would have caught fire at some point like he has been known to do throughout his career.

Instead, the Wild bowed out in the first round with Fiala’s continued playoff struggles serving as a big reason. The 25-year-old from Switzerland posted a career-high 33 goals and 52 assists during the regular season. He followed up that with no goals in the postseason.

“It’s been tough days,” Fiala said Monday after having the weekend to digest yet another early exit. “You just feel very empty.”

That emptiness is exacerbated by the fact that Fiala’s future with the Wild is uncertain.

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He is due a big raise after emerging as an elite goal scorer this season. Perhaps somewhere in the range of $8 million a year.

Will the Wild be able to afford him? Unlikely. Do the Wild even want to afford him? Unclear.

NHL: Seattle Kraken at Minnesota Wild
Minnesota's Kevin Fiala celebrates his fifth assist of the night April 22 against the Seattle Kraken at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. After posting a career-high 33 goals and 52 assists during the regular season, Fiala did not score a goal in this year's playoffs.
Nick Wosika / USA Today Sports

After not giving Fiala a long-term contract last offseason, it’s hard to imagine general manager Bill Guerin will feel much differently this offseason. As much as Fiala dominated play late in the regular season, he went silent once again in the playoffs. That’s a problem.

“I tried my best; I tried to get it going,” he said. “It’s just such a shame to go out like that.”

Asked if he thinks he will be back with the Wild next season, Fiala struggled to find the right words.

“There’s no other answer than, ‘We’ll see,’ ” Fiala said. “I don’t know.”

If money wasn’t a factor, there’s no doubt the Wild would want to retain Fiala. He’s a very good player who became an even better player this season.

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Not only did Fiala refine his skills in many facets this season, he also became tougher mentally, learning to deal with frustration in a much healthier way than earlier in his career.

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Unfortunately for Fiala, after showing so much growth during the regular season, he seemed to let the frustration get the best of him throughout the playoffs. He failed to capitalize on a few scoring chances early in the series against the Blues, and the frustration seemed to increase from there.

“In the playoffs, it feels like you really want to be the difference because every game is so big,” Fiala said. “In the regular season, you can kind of be more quiet in your head and chill kind of because it’s 82 games.”

As for how he is approaching this offseason, Fiala is trying not to think too much. There’s no point since most of this is now out of his hands.

“I’m relaxed right now,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do.”

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