The Seattle Kraken’s expansion draft is fast approaching, and teams are frantically making preparations for who they might lose off their roster. For the Minnesota Wild, the belief for some time is that they will expose and probably lose defenseman Matt Dumba. He has openly expressed his desire to remain in Minnesota, the only team he has ever played for in the NHL since drafted 7th overall in 2007. However, because some teammates have no-movement clauses, along with the volume of forwards the Wild will likely want to protect, Dumba seems likely to be left exposed.
If exposed, he will surely be someone the Kraken would love to add to their roster. He will only be 27 at the start of the 2021-22 season, is under contract for two more years at a $6 million cap hit and brings a tremendous amount of passion and physicality to each game.
In 462 career NHL games, he has 68 goals and 127 assists for 195 points. His best offensive season came in 2017-18 when he registered 14 goals and 50 points playing in all 82 games. The right-handed, two-way defender rounds out a very impressive top-four in Minnesota, including Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, and captain Jared Spurgeon.
Losing Dumba would leave a big hole in that group, and it’s tough to throw someone like Calen Addison into that top-four, with three games of NHL experience, and expect him to thrive.
Therefore, even though Dumba is currently still on the Wild, general manager Bill Guerin and his staff have to be brainstorming ideas on how to replace him if Seattle ends up claiming him on July 21. Whether through free agency or trade, the Wild will likely need to acquire someone if they lose Dumba to Seattle.
With Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala still unsigned, it’s extremely tough to know just how much money the Wild will have available to spend in free agency. It’s also important to remember that these are players the Wild will look at signing only if they lose Dumba and his $6 million cap hit to the Kraken.
Hamilton is the best defenceman hitting the market this offseason. The Hurricanes have already permitted him to talk to other teams to gain a sense of the market, although that doesn’t rule out a return to Carolina.
He will likely cost a little too much for the Wild; however, if you’re Bill Guerin, you at least give him a call. He would instantly give the Wild one of, if not the best defense in the entire NHL. Last season, he registered 42 points in 55 regular-season games with the Hurricanes.
Hamilton is an analytical darling who, at only 28 years old, has already played for three different NHL teams. He will be looking for some long-term stability, and again, likely out of the price range that Minnesota would be willing to go. However, if there is a way for it to work, he’s the type of player you try to find creative ways to make it happen.
Montour looks like a more realistic player the Wild might look to target to replace Dumba. Last season he started with the Buffalo Sabres and then was traded to the Florida Panthers just a few days before the trade deadline.
His point production and advanced analytics improved once he joined the Panthers, and he logged big minutes for the Panthers in both 12 regular-season games (17:19) and six playoff games (15:25).
He only made $3.85 million last season, and if he is set to get a raise next season, it likely won’t be a huge jump. At least, not up to the $6 million Dumba is currently making. He can play both the left and right side on defense, but as a right-shot defenceman, he looks like a perfect candidate to slide right in Dumba’s spot in the top four and actually save the Wild some money in the process.
It’s never a guarantee that teams will find their missing pieces in free agency, which means the trade route is their next best bet. For the Wild, if they don’t find a replacement for Dumba in free agency, they could look for value in cap constraint teams due to the flat cap. We could see some talented defenseman traded this offseason, and the Wild could very well be in on those moves. Let’s take a look at some possible defensemen that could intrigue the Wild into acquiring this offseason.
The Toronto Maple Leafs would love to extend their longest-serving player in Morgan Rielly before the start of the 2021-22 season, which is the final year of his current contract at just a $5 million cap hit. However, if the two sides can’t work out an extension, the Maple Leafs might want to explore the possibility of moving him so they don’t lose him for nothing next summer.
Rielly is an excellent puck-moving defenceman who struggles in his own zone defending at times. He likely needs to be paired with someone more defensively minded, like he was this season in Toronto with T.J. Brodie. In Minnesota, if paired with a player like Jared Spurgeon, he could be a real asset with his ability to feed skill forwards with effective breakout passes in transition. Plus, with only one year remaining on his deal, there’s no long-term commitment if he doesn’t fit as well as hoped on the Wild.
The Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning are in for several tough roster decisions this coming offseason. Cernak certainly isn’t a player they will want to trade, but with Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, and Mikhail Sergachev all ahead of him on the depth chart, he might be someone they have to move.
Cernak is a 24-year-old, right-handed shot defenseman making $2.95 million for the next two seasons before becoming a restricted free agent. He also has tons of playoff experience, playing critical roles in Tampa’s back-to-back Stanley Cup runs.
It’s too early to know if there is even a chance that Cernak will be available, but the Lightning are in such trouble with the salary cap that someone like him might be available. If so, the Wild should be on that phone immediately, offering a package of futures for Cernak.
Overall, it’s a lot easier to acquire depth defencemen than it is to acquire someone neat the level of Matt Dumba. However, that’s what makes it so crucial that they do. Aside from contracts for Kaprizov and Fiala, finding another top-four defenceman to replace Dumba might be the toughest task for the Wild this offseason.
Sports writer covering the Minnesota Wild. Currently studying for a degree in sport media.