Chip Scoggins
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The trade was inevitable. No surprises, just the harsh nature of business.

There was no realistic scenario in which Wild General Manager Bill Guerin could keep both winger Kevin Fiala and defenseman Matt Dumba, and anyone who has listened to Guerin talk since season's end understood that Fiala was going be the odd man out.

Still, reality carries an element of sting to it.

The Wild gained some necessary financial relief but didn't instantly improve itself Wednesday by trading Fiala to the Los Angeles Kings for a 2022 first-round draft pick and Gophers defenseman prospect Brock Faber.

Fans and hockey experts can debate whether the Wild received enough compensation in return but from a basic starting point, give me a proven asset over an unproven asset every day of the week.

That wasn't an option with Fiala, not with his expected price tag and the salary cap nightmare Guerin created for himself by jettisoning Zach Parise and Ryan Suter last summer. The math simply didn't work.

Guerin admitted Wednesday that he knew during the season that trading Fiala would be his only play.

"The kid had a great year [and] we don't have cap space," he said. "It just didn't fit."

So now what?

How does the Wild replace Fiala's 33 goals and 85 points? That's the only relevant question remaining.

"I don't know," Guerin said. "We'll have to play the games and see. See how guys produce. We might be able to. We don't know."

Credit Guerin for his honesty, but removing a 30-goal scorer from a team coming off its best regular season in franchise history doesn't feel like progress in the moment. The uncertainty over how that void gets filled makes it extra challenging for the Wild to keep ascending in trying to construct a playoff winner.

Part of Guerin's popularity and charm as a GM is he is fearless in his decision making and doesn't shiver at the thought of being second-guessed. It's up to Dumba now to prove Guerin made the right choice in keeping him, assuming it was an either-or deliberation and the veteran defenseman doesn't get traded at the draft as well.

More so, Guerin is banking heavily on his young core and current and future prospects. To avoid a step backward, the Wild will need a group that includes Matt Boldy, Calen Addison and Marco Rossi to have their development accelerated and thrive in expanded roles.

Their talent is obvious. The organization is hopeful they can fulfill their promise, quickly.

Guerin knew a youth movement was an unavoidable outcome when he decided to shake up the locker room culture and leadership by unloading Parise and Suter. The sunken cost of $12.7 million in dead cap space this season is a harsh consequence.

"We need younger guys," Guerin said. "We need guys that don't make millions and millions of dollars. We just have to do it that way."

Guerin chose this path so he can't complain. He accumulated more draft picks to add to a farm system that already draws praise. His mission is to find a way to maintain a winner while dealing with a salary cap crunch for the next few seasons.

Can it be done? Sure, but it's naive to think it won't be more difficult without Fiala's playmaking and scoring touch.

Guerin's hand was forced by financial constraints in trading away one of his best players, and he acknowledges he doesn't know how that lost production will be made up. Even though he disappeared in the playoff series against St. Louis, Fiala's loss is a bummer because he is a dynamic player.

Scoring will have to come from other sources now. Everybody will have to pitch in. The Wild can't ask Kirill Kaprizov to be Superman.