The Minnesota Wild have a complex situation when it comes to handling Matt Dumba. The defensive core for the future includes Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, and Jonas Brodin all have no-move-clauses that protect them from being moved. This leaves Dumba on the outside, as there is no way they will be able to keep him due to all the money invested in those three defensemen and top defensive prospect Calen Addison — acquired from the Penguins in the Jason Zucker trade — who’s bound to make an impact at the NHL level next season.
At this point, Addison makes Dumba expendable, and it will be a cost-effective measure in order to free up money that can then be allocated to the youth.
The Wild unsurprisingly didn’t deal Dumba at the trade deadline, which meant his modified no-trade clause kicks in. They no longer have the flexibility to make a trade, making it more difficult for the Wild to find a trade partner that is not only willing to move the assets required but has the cap flexibility in this financial landscape — with the cap staying stagnant for the near future — to make this deal. On top of that, they will need to find a team that is in need of a right-shot defenseman.
It has become clear that these modified no-trade-clauses players hold can easily be manipulated and used to their advantage. Take Eric Staal for an example; he had a modified no-trade-clause like Dumba. He blocked as many as five trades in a span of two years before the Wild traded him to Buffalo, according to NHL insider Elliotte Friedman when he was on the Instigators podcast.
This leaves the Wild with three different possibilities, including trading Dumba before the expansion draft, allowing the Seattle Kraken to take him, or protecting him and dealing him after the expansion draft.
Possibility #1: Trade Dumba Before Expansion
The first possibility is that the Wild trade Dumba before the Seattle Expansion Draft. This seems like the most logical choice, as they will be able to get future assets in return instead of losing him for nothing. A right-shot defenseman with term is a hot commodity, which is why the rest of this season and the playoffs could elevate his trade value.
The Wild need to be patient and make sure they make the right decision. The 26-year-old right-shot defenseman has immense value and has shown his ability to be an elite offensive defenseman while still being average defensively. He has first-pairing upside if he can get his game back before to where it was before his devastating injury that derailed his breakout season.
One of the biggest reasons his name keeps appearing in rumors without legitimate details — potential teams that are interested, packages that have been offered, etc — is that there is no doubt that the financial landscape has a significant impact on a potential trade for a defenseman with an AAV of $6 million, which is relatively expensive right now. Not very many teams have the flexibility and need to make a trade like this. They just need to be patient and find the right fit.
Possibility #2: Allow Seattle Kraken to Select Dumba
The second possibility is that the Wild expose Dumba to Seattle, which inevitably would lead to the Kraken selecting him. This is definitely an interesting scenario because it would provide them with significant cap space and flexibility, which can’t be ignored or overlooked.
The big issue with this scenario is that the Wild don’t get any assets in the form of prospects and picks. Obviously, cap space is an asset, but this is a player that once led all NHL defensemen with 12 goals in 32 games before his injury. He has legitimate first-pairing offensive upside, and he has taken significant strides defensively, which displays his game continues to strengthen.
This is a very risky decision because there would be serious regrets if Dumba ends up living up to his potential. It is better to get some assets rather than losing him for nothing. On the other hand, if the Wild can’t get a package that’s strong enough, then it may be smarter to allow Seattle to take him because would it restrict them from losing an additional defenseman like Carson Soucy, who Seattle would likely take if Dumba is traded before the Seattle Expansion Draft.
Possibility #3: Protect Dumba, Trade After Expansion
The third possibility is to protect Dumba and trade him after the Seattle Expansion. The former first-round pick still has two years left on his deal after this year, meaning they could even keep him for next season to elevate his trade value and flip him for future assets before he becomes a pending unrestricted free agent.
The problem with this possibility is that it would mean the Wild would have to go the eight skater route, which will expose multiple key contributors in the forward corps. This is definitely the risky option because protecting Dumba likely means they will be forced to expose Jordan Greenway. There is no doubt he would be Seattle’s selection because of his stature and his potential to be a key player in the supporting cast for a team.
The biggest question is if it is worth exposing a young forward on the potential that Dumba increases his trade value. That is very risky and doesn’t seem like the smartest decision.
It will be really interesting what course of action Wild general manager Bill Guerin takes ahead of the Seattle Expansion Draft, as this situation has a big impact on the future. There are a lot of decisions and scenarios that he will have to run through on what this team looks like in the near future and who will be a part of it.
In my opinion, the best option is to try and find a trade partner before the critical date in July to ensure the Wild don’t regret losing the sharp-shooting defenseman without getting something in return.
Aaron Heckmann covers the Wild for The Hockey Writers & Zone Coverage. His data-driven articles are focused on solving problems, telling stories, and discovering unique storylines. Find him on Twitter @aaron_heckmann.