With the trade deadline mere weeks away and the Tampa Bay Lightning once again being a contender, it’s time to start seriously looking at players that general manager Julien BriseBois could target at the deadline. Of course, any trade the Lightning make will be complicated, as the team is pushed squarely against the cap, and they have few tradeable assets after emptying out the cupboards in recent years to acquire talent for their Stanley Cup runs.
Despite this, I still expect the Lightning to be active at the 2023 Deadline. BriseBois is not a general manager who rests on his laurels, and if he sees a player out there that can make his team better, he will do what it takes to acquire them. This means we should think outside the box a little more for players Tampa Bay might target, as they like to find talent that is underutilized and bring them into a new situation. So, this is all to say that I could see Matt Dumba as a potential shortlist candidate.
Now, in normal circumstances, a player of Dumba’s caliber wouldn’t be available at the deadline. However, his role with the Minnesota Wild has decreased in recent years to the point that he was a healthy scratch at times this season. This means that he could be on the market for a relatively low cost, both in future assets and cap hit (assuming Minnesota retains money), which would be appealing to the Lightning.
What Dumba Could Bring to Tampa Bay
For the Lightning, Dumba would fill a need at defense, as they have a fairly uncertain right side. While Nick Perbix has stepped into a top role with the franchise, he is still a rookie that is unproven in the postseason. Behind him is Erik Cernak, who is their best right-shot defender, an often injured Zach Bogosian, and a handful of fringe NHL’ers who can play a game or two in the league if needed, but aren’t players you want to rely on in the postseason.
If everything goes perfectly, then the Lightning really wouldn’t need to add a player like Dumba, but we all know that perfect doesn’t happen in the postseason. If Perbix takes a step back under the bright lights, or if Bogosian and/or Cernak suffer an injury, the team would be in a really bad spot on their right side.
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In the best-case scenario, Dumba would be used in a limited role on the bottom pairing, which would allow him to focus on the aspects of the game that he does best while attempting to find his offensive touch once again. If the need called, however, he could easily step into a top-four role and take on 20-plus minutes each night, especially when you consider that he is already doing this for the Wild when he is starting for the team.
Can Lightning Meet Wild’s Demands for Dumba?
Even if the Lightning see Dumba as a perfect fit, the next logical question is… can they afford him? In order for them to swing a trade, a number of things would need to happen, with the first being Minnesota looking to add more depth to their core for a postseason run. While they would likely want futures, you don’t give up an NHL-caliber defenseman with the expectation that your team is getting worse while preparing for the postseason.
If the Wild retain 50% of Dumba’s contract, that would leave roughly $3 million for Tampa Bay to absorb, meaning they will need to move salary out in any trade. However, they do have players like Vladislav Namestnikov, Cal Foote, and Philippe Myers who could act as viable pieces to move out salary while bringing positive value to a trade.
Next, the question becomes what kind of futures the Lightning would be willing to part with. As a team without their first-round pick for the next two seasons, they would have limited draft options in any trade. They could deal their 2023 third-round pick, or a 2024 second, but a single pick with a prospect may not be enough to get a deal done.
Considering that they are looking to move on from Dumba, though, the Wild may be more willing to work out a deal even if the return isn’t huge. If the Lightning are able to make something happen by selling some of their forward depth and/or defensemen that haven’t found their place with the team yet, then it would be a trade worth making. They could always use more depth on defense, and if the cost is right, this would be a relatively low-risk, high-reward player to pursue.