The Minnesota Wild‘s front office surprised many people earlier this week when they signed veteran defenseman Alex Goligoski to a two-year, $4 million extension. While the 36-year-old hasn’t been his team’s worst blueliner this season, the signing came as a shock considering how the Wild already had five other defensemen under contract for the 2022-23 season with a handful of other players deserving of new deals.
Taking Ryan Suter and Zach Parise‘s buyouts into account, the Wild now have an estimated $8.1 million in cap space next season. In other words, general manager Bill Guerin may need to get creative this offseason if he wants to retain players like Kevin Fiala and the recently-acquired defenseman Jacob Middleton. Mathew Dumba’s name is one that’s popped up in trade rumors in recent seasons, and with a potential logjam on defense, he could be a candidate to be traded this offseason.
What Happened to Mathew Dumba?
If you aren’t familiar with the Wild, you might be surprised that there have even been Dumba trade rumors to begin with. After all, he’s a former seventh overall pick from the 2012 NHL Entry Draft who’s amassed over 500 games played since entering the league. He’s largely seen as one of the better defensemen that the franchise has had in its short history, which was supported (at the time) when he signed a five-year, $30 million contract back in July 2018. Adding in the fact that he’s been at the forefront of the NHL’s Hockey Diversity Alliance, and it’s easy to see how some are surprised by the idea of him potentially getting moved.
With that said, the writing has been on the wall for Dumba over the last few seasons. For starters, he just hasn’t had the same offensive flair that he displayed earlier in his career. He recorded a career-high 14 goals and 50 points in 82 games during the 2017-18 NHL season, which ultimately led to his major contract. However, he’s yet to replicate that success. He’s recorded fewer than 30 points in the following three seasons and is only on pace for 33 points this season (assuming he doesn’t miss any more games).
Dumba’s offensive decline is likely because of him suffering a season-ending ruptured pectoral muscle injury when he fought the Calgary Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk during the 2018-19 season. He really hasn’t been the same since then despite fans hoping that he could eventually return to form.
Dumba will be 28 years old once the 2022-23 NHL season begins, and while other players have had late-career resurgences before, nothing indicates that the same is in store for him. Unless he shows something impressive down the stretch or in the playoffs, Guerin will likely seriously consider him as the top candidate to move in the summer.
Why Trade Dumba?
Even with Dumba plateauing over the last few seasons, some might be wondering why the Wild might think of trading him during the upcoming offseason. He isn’t the team’s worst defenseman, and the 2022-23 campaign will be the final year of his contract, so the Wild could easily walk away from him when his deal expires.
The main reason that Dumba is a likely candidate to get traded this summer is simple: cap space. As mentioned before, CapFriendly currently lists the Wild as having slightly more than $8.1 million to spend in the upcoming offseason with six roster spots to fill. Meanwhile, Dumba’s $6 million cap hit in 2022-23 is tied with Jonas Brodin and Mats Zuccarello for the third-highest on the team. Including next season, Brodin has five years remaining on his contract, while Zuccarello has too much chemistry with Kirill Kaprizov to even consider moving, making Dumba the odd man out.
Dumba may have passed his prime, but getting him on a one-year deal could be appealing for contending teams or at least those looking to take a step forward. He can still provide stability on any team’s bottom-two pairings and could also be a solid mentor for any up-and-coming defensemen.
The Wild likely won’t be able to get a major return for him due to A) his being on a one-year contract next year and B) the fact that they’re desperate to create cap space. There also isn’t a reason to look for a roster player in return because of the fact the goal of trading Dumba is to create cap space. Plus, Guerin will likely want prospects and draft picks in return due to their low cost and because he’ll need to replenish the prospect cupboard if the likes of Marco Rossi, Calen Addison and Adam Beckman become full-time call-ups next season.
Dumba Could End up Staying in Minnesota
Although all signs point to Dumba getting traded, it’s not a guarantee that a deal will materialize during the offseason. On one hand, the 2022-23 salary cap is only going to increase by $1 million. If a team is already hesitating to add his contract to their payroll, a minuscule salary cap increase likely won’t sway their minds unless the Wild are willing to retain his salary. Unless their trading partner is willing to add more pieces to sweeten the pot, Guerin may not be interested in retaining any cash.
There’s also the fact that Dumba could convince the Wild to keep him by living up to expectations down the stretch and into the playoffs. His offense has picked up as he enters April, recording three goals and an assist in his last six games, which includes him finding the back of the net in both of his previous two games. Considering how the Wild are 5-0-1 in that span, it’s easy to see how him playing to his potential has positive implications for the team.
Nevertheless, Dumba must continue playing at a high pace if he hopes to don a Wild jersey for the 2022-23 NHL season. As an alternate captain and community leader, Wild fans would love for him to stay with the team — as long as his on-ice performance matches his salary. If he can’t turn things around in the coming months, the Dumba era in Minnesota might be over sooner than later.
As a lifelong hockey fan and recent Master of Journalism graduate, it’s always been my dream to write about the sport. That’s why you can find me here on THW covering the Minnesota Wild! You may also see my work on FanDuel, the Ottawa Citizen, and various sports betting sites. Follow me on Twitter @devplat!