The Pittsburgh Penguins have salary cap space to add and may have roster space to fill. Tuesday afternoon, a source close to the Penguins front office told PHN that Penguins trade talks have included an old friend. Penguins GM Jim Rutherford may be discussing a deal with his former assistant GM Bill Guerin, who was named the GM of the Minnesota Wild in August.
The source told PHN the Penguins inquired about small, but tenacious forward Kevin Fiala. As Minnesota GM, Guerin signed the 23-year-old left wing to a two-year, $6 million contract on Sept. 11.
Fiala is 5-foot-10, 193 pounds, and a speedy forward with good stickhandling skills and high compete level. In 2017-18, which was his second NHL season, Fiala scored 23 goals and 25 assists for the Nashville Predators. Last season, he slumped to 39 points (13g, 26a) in 83 games split between Nashville and Minnesota.
Fiala was dealt to Minnesota at the trade deadline for Mikael Granlund.
Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist was injured Saturday, and the Penguins announced he would be out “longer-term.” Fiala has just two points, including one goal in nine games this season. Minnesota’s nine points this season are tied for worst in the NHL.
Guerin has the unenviable task of retooling Minnesota despite aging stars with onerous contracts. Defenseman Ryan Suter is 34-years-old but signed for another five seasons with a cap hit of $7.5 million. Winger Zach Parise, 35, is also inked for another five years at a $7.5 million cap hit.
The Penguins dealt defenseman Erik Gudbranson more than a week ago and saved $4 million, so another deal is not required for the Penguins, which have been decimated by injuries. Fiala would fit in the new Penguins identity of fast players who are hard on the puck, but the knock on Fiala is strength. The Penguins might be looking to snipe a former 20-goal scorer on the cheap.
The Penguins have 96 shots in their previous two games and have allowed just 52 as their speed and tenacity have dominated opponents.
Rutherford and former MN GM Paul Fenton reached agreement in June for Penguins winger Phil Kessel and Minnesota winger Jason Zucker, but Kessel vetoed the deal.
The source did not indicate a deal was imminent or the level or seriousness of talks. In fact, the Penguins filled their open roster space Tuesday afternoon when they recalled rookie Sam Lafferty, who had six points (3g, 3a) in 10 games last month.
Guerin was the Penguins assistant GM from 2014 to 2019. He won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins as a player in 2009.