With one year remaining on his contract after this season and the Seattle Kraken expansion draft looming this summer, defenseman Matt Dumba’s time with the Minnesota Wild could come to an end.
The 26-year-old defenseman, who has been with the Wild since being the seventh pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, registered six goals and 18 assists in 69 games last season. Dumba added one assist in four games against the Vancouver Canucks in the play-in round.
On Jan.7, NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti reported that Dumba does not want Minnesota to trade him and has expressed this sentiment to general manager Bill Guerin. However, Dumba acknowledged that Guerin will “have to do his due diligence” as general manager to listen to potential offers while viewing the trade rumours as “part of the business.”
Despite being on the books with an average annual value (AAV) of $6 million until the 2022-23 season, the rumours, along with the roster’s contract structures and cap space issues, may push the Wild to trade Dumba, whose contract is one with the least complications.
Guerin will need to assess how he will approach his expansion draft protection list, which can take on two possible iterations: i) eight skaters and one goalie; ii) seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie. With five no-movement clauses (NMC) on the roster, these protected spots are automatically decided. Zach Parise and Mats Zuccarello take up two forward spots, and three defensemen spots are filled by captain Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin.
The 2020-21 season is still early and the Wild do have options with Dumba’s predicament that includes a modified 10 team no-movement clause(M-NMC) kick in next season.
Trade For Assets
The Wild can look to obtain assets for Dumba before the expansion draft. If not prior to the trade deadline, then the NHL Entry Draft may be the next best option. He is in the prime of his career at 26 and is a sought-after right-hand shot on the back end.
The $6 million cap hit is not inexpensive, but it’s not an absorbent amount laden with bonuses and protection either. He comes with term until 2023, and the Wild have been known to take back salary in trades, with the Devan Dubnyk deal to the San Jose Sharks being the most recent example. With a freer hand and leverage this season, Guerin may want to deal Dumba before the M-NMC comes into play.
In his short tenure as GM, Guerin has made several bold trades. Expressing disappointment following the team’s play-in round elimination, Guerin shook up the culture of the locker room in a series of moves, including trading fan favourites in centre Eric Staal and Dubnyk. No one on the roster, including Dumba, should be an exception.
Based on his previous moves, the GM can look to shore up the team’s prospect capital or acquire another roster player to help keep the competitive window open.
Set Up A Pre-Expansion Draft Deal
If the Wild are adamant about keeping Dumba, there is the option of striking a deal with Seattle to ensure another player is selected with an added draft pick or prospect compensation to make it happen.
With no incoming defensive prospect in the system to absorb Dumba’s production immediately, perhaps the Wild will look for ways to keep the defensive corps intact. Despite the influx of young talent in the lineup this season, Guerin still expects to field a competitive team moving forward. The Wild’s recent retooling has helped prolong a quality lineup with several mainstays in their 30s.
However, Minnesota needs to approach this route with a degree of caution. Prior to the 2017 Expansion Draft, the Wild traded then-prospect Alex Tuch to the Vegas Golden Knights to ensure forward Erik Haula was selected over Dumba, defenseman Marco Scandella and centre Eric Staal. Tuch, the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft, has since blossomed into a top-six forward for the Golden Knights.
In 2018, Sportsnet’s Sean McIndoe outlined these expansion draft deals that teams would come to regret once the Golden Knights found immediate success by capitalizing on the players and prospects afforded to them. Losing Tuch did not drastically hamper the Wild, but it took a hit to their asset management.
Unprotect & Expose
Prospect capital and draft picks may not want to be lost this time, especially with the veteran core getting older. With the rise of Kirill Kaprizov and other high-end forwards Matthew Boldy and Marco Rossi in the system, the Wild are building a foundation for the future that may be better left alone. Also, the recent stockpiling of prospects should include as many of their own future draft picks as possible to strengthen the organizational depth.
If a trade is not found, the Wild can risk it and expose Dumba to Seattle. His selection could alleviate a large chunk of the team’s cap crunch. As of today, Minnesota has $85,866 in cap space. The five NMCs and other high cap hit contracts with term will continue to take up most of the $81.5 million flat salary cap.
After this season, there will be the expiring contracts of Marcus Johansson, Ian Cole, Nick Bonino and Nick Bjustad. However, restricted free agents Joel Eriksson-Ek, Kaapo Kähkönen and Kevin Fiala all require new deals as well.
Even if the Kraken do not pick Dumba, his M-NMC still gives the Wild 22 potential trade partners to negotiate with before the start of next season.
Kraken GM Ron Francis told NHL.com’s Nicholas J. Cotsonika in December that other teams and GMs “have had maybe more time than in the past expansion draft [for the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017] to sort of prepare their teams and the roster for it.”
The asset losses teams endured in past pre-expansion draft trades may deter the Wild from worrying about Dumba’s selection compared to 2017, meaning an impending trade during the regular season is a strong possibility. The options for a coveted right-hand shot defenseman are plenty, and it depends on whether Guerin continues to build the pipeline or find immediate additions to the main club.
Sports journalist covering the Minnesota Wild. Currently completing a journalism degree in Toronto, Canada.