Skill set aside, signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to their identical overpaid contracts hurts most when it comes to re-signing key players. The Minnesota Wild are using nearly 25 percent of their cap space on just those two and they are paying over $9 million combined for defensemen Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin. That’s a ton of money to be spending on defense and part of why signing Matt Dumba to a contract isn’t as simple as it seems.
New General Manager
The Wild recently parted ways with their general manager, Chuck Fletcher after nine seasons. This is problematic for a player like Dumba. The salary is tight and there isn’t a ton of money to bring in talent from free agency unless on bargain contracts. The next general manager that the Wild hire will have his own vision and will likely want to build his own team. Minnesota has so many players locked up with large contracts and a slew of aging veterans that will make the process much more difficult.
Dumba is a player that won’t come cheap and everyone knows it. It’s tough to let such a young player (still only 23-years-old) leave without a suitable replacement but we can’t predict what the new GM will do and if he decides he needs more salary cap to work with, Dumba could be on his way out of Minnesota.
Related: Wild Thinking: Fletcher Era Finished
It feels like players in every sport have their best seasons right before their contract is about to expire. In the NFL, the Houston Texans gave quarterback Brock Osweiler a 4-year, $72 million contract after one “breakout” season with the Denver Broncos. Needless to say, he was traded the next season with a second-round pick. The Texans had to give up a draft pick for someone to take him.
However, the Wild have recently had good luck signing a player after his contract year. During the 2016-17 season, Mikael Granlund had his breakout year. He played in 81 games and posted 26 goals, 43 assists, 69 points, and a plus/minus of plus-23. He was rewarded for his efforts with a 3-year, $17.25 million deal.
In the 2017-18 season, he played in 77 games and posted 21 goals, 46 assists, 67 points, and a plus/minus of plus-13. His season was slightly less successful than his contract year but the drop in production is not alarming to anyone.
Dumba’s Body of Work
Dumba has been in the NHL for five years now and has already logged 310 games. In his young career he has managed 44 goals, 84 assists, 128 points, plus/minus of plus-39, 366 hits, 64 takeaways, and 172 giveaways.
He is, of course, an offensive defenseman and while occasionally a liability on defense, he makes up for it on the offensive end. He is especially strong on the power play. He is still so young, roughly four years off from his prime, which gives him plenty of time to continue to develop his game as he has done in each season he has been in the NHL.
Related: Minnesota Wild’s Best Defenseman
Dumba posted numerous career highs in his contract year including games played (82), goals (14), assists (36), points (50), game-winning goals (4), shots (176), hits (136), takeaways (22), and giveaways (52). Most remarkable are the goals and points that he produced on the season. He posted very impressive numbers and there is a demand for offensively gifted defensemen.
The number of giveaways is quite high, and Dumba has become known as a turnover machine. He’ll often be out of position and makes hurried passes through traffic or in his own zone that have proved costly for Minnesota in the past. Again, he’s 23-years-old and this is far from the peak of his game. However, his mistakes should be mentioned so hopefully, he can improve on those issues, but Dumba has proved himself to be a capable NHL caliber defenseman.
Ideal Contract for Dumba
A smart general manager won’t let a 23-year-old, 50-point defenseman walk out the door with little in return. Fletcher spaced out the contracts for Nino Niederreiter and Granlund so that if they need to be extended they won’t have two large contracts expiring in the same summer. That approach with Dumba would work but if he continues to improve as he should, signing him to a short-term deal will mean shelling out even more money after it expires.
An ideal contract for Dumba would be somewhere between Spurgeon ($5.187 million) and Brodin ($4.166). The three best defensemen the Wild have are Suter, Spurgeon, and Dumba so it would make sense to pay him somewhere around $4.5 million a season.
It would be wise for the Wild to offer a four or five-year contract so that his contract would expire somewhere during his prime. At that point, Minnesota would know exactly what they have and if he warrants a further extension. As of now, you’re banking on his development as a defenseman because he has proved he is a very skilled player offensively.