This will be the second expansion draft where the Minnesota Wild have a critical decision surrounding defenseman Matt Dumba. In the Vegas Expansion Draft, the Wild made a side deal that sent Alex Tuch to Vegas with the contingency that they would select forward Erik Haula, doing so would protect Eric Staal and Dumba.
Fast forward to this summer, the Wild have to decide whether they want to protect the standard seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie or eight skaters and a goalie. If they choose the former, it will expose Dumba, who would then likely be taken unless a side deal is orchestrated by general manager Bill Guerin. If they choose the latter, it exposes promising young forward Jordan Greenway and the heart-and-soul leader of the team in Marcus Foligno.
Remember, it is unlikely that Ryan Suter or Zach Parise waive their no-move-clause.
The Wild do have options with Dumba this summer:
- Trade Dumba before Seattle Expansion for either a top-six center or future assets
- Expose Dumba in the standard route and allow him to be taken
- Expose Dumba in the standard route, make a side deal with the Kraken
- Protect Dumba in the eight skaters route, keeping the top-four intact but exposing notable forwards
Calen Addison looks poised to make the roster next season, and he is projected to be a top-four offensive defenseman that can quarterback the power play. Additionally, it is unlikely the Wild can afford to retain Dumba when his contract ends after the 2022-23 season anyways.
That is why the best move would be trading him before the Seattle Expansion Draft for either a top-six center or future assets. This would also open up substantial cap space that could be allocated to restricted free agents Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala, and Joel Eriksson Ek.
Despite still not being able to replicate his offensive explosion in the 2018-19 season before his season-ending injury, Dumba still has immense value. He is a coveted right-shot, has term on his contract, and has shown flashes of his strong offensive ability.
Trading Dumba before expansion is a difficult task. The buyer would have to have the following for this trade to occur: the cap space to afford his $6 million cap hit, the need for a right-shot defenseman, and an open protection spot on the backend.
Here are potential landing spots for the sharp-shooting defenseman in a pre-expansion draft trade:
The Philadelphia Flyers have a real need for a top-four right-shot defenseman. Their biggest hole in the lineup is on the right side defensively. After the news of Matt Niskanen retiring, the right side was in flux with their best options being Phillippe Myers and Justin Braun, both of whom are signed beyond next season. The need for an offensive defenseman like Dumba is present, albeit this would most likely not be their first option, given he would fit better on the second pair.
The Flyers have several assets that could make this deal work – Morgan Frost, Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick, and a 2021 first-round pick. Frost, 22, is a center and is projected to be a real good player. He would likely need to be in the deal, especially with the Wild needing a center. Konecny is a clear top-six forward, but he’s better established as a winger, making this unlikely given the lack of need on the Wild’s end. Patrick has shown some real flashes, but his injury and concussion history is concerning. It would be a risk, but he has some significant upside.
As of now, the Flyers are projected to protect Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and Myers. The former two are locks, however, Myers is not. If this trade were to come to fruition, the Flyers could protect Dumba.
It would be quite the story if Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher, who previously worked as the GM of the Wild, made a trade for Dumba. These two teams seem like a good match and there is no doubt that the Flyers will have interest in the sharp-shooting defenseman. The potential for a trade between these two teams will most likely depend on if the Flyers can get any higher-profile defensemen available. If the Flyers can unload Shane Gostisbehere, this deal could be even more likely.
The Winnipeg Jets could use some defensive reinforcements as they continue to restore their defensive core after the departures of Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, and Tyler Myers. Their backend would vastly improve with the acquisition of Dumba. It would redefine the right side of their defensive structure with Pionk and Demelo on the right side as well.
In terms of assets coming back the other way, it would be picks and prospects rather than an established NHLer, especially since the Jets don’t have a center that would interest the Wild. There’s no way that they would be willing to move Cole Perfetti, especially with Dumba’s struggles to return to pre-injury production. Now, would they be willing to send their first-round pick in this year’s draft, and say, center prospect David Gustafsson?
If the Jets were to trade for Dumba, they would be able to protect him in the Seattle Expansion Draft. He could hold the third protection spot with Morrissey and Pionk safe as well. It would solidify their top-four with more production from their backend.
There could be some real interest to make a trade between these clubs. Pierre-Luc Dubois and Neal Pionk are their two notable contract extensions this offseason. With over $20 million in cap space, they could make this deal work money-wise depending on the price of their two significant restricted free agents, both of whom are arbitration-eligible.
The Vancouver Canucks are one of the strongest possibilities to land Dumba because of their previous interest and their desperate need to improve their right side. They have Tyler Myers – who has struggled since his arrival – on the right side, but their depth beyond that is thin. Nate Schmidt can play on either side, but acquiring a right-shot like Dumba would help disguise their exposed right side.
This would be the most interesting trade considering the Canucks really don’t have a center to give the Wild on their NHL roster or their prospect pipeline. To make it work, it would likely be a first-round pick in this year’s draft and someone like Jake Virtanen who has shown his ability to make a difference offensively.
Quinn Hughes is exempt from being selected, which leaves their defensive protection slots fairly open. They likely protect Nate Schmidt, who was a capable defender, and Olli Juolevi, who has shown some potential. Dumba would easily be able to take a protection spot as Myers being picked from Seattle would be a gift.
The need and Seattle Expansion factors aren’t relevant in this trade, but the cap situation could be a barrier in a potential trade with Elias Pettersson and Hughes needing an extension and Brock Boeser a year away from a potentially big contract. There are a lot of moving parts, but this potentially could be a landing spot for the defensemen.
Aside from Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Jakob Chychrun, the Arizona Coyotes’ backend is shallow. They have three veterans whose contracts are up: Jason Demers (33), Alex Goligoski (35), and Niklas Hjalmarsson (34) – all three of whom can play on the right side with the former two established on the right side. They clearly need to get younger on the right side and Dumba could be a suitable presence on their blue line.
I still find this destination at the top of the list for a potential destination as both teams could benefit in a hockey trade. There is no doubt the Wild would be interested in center Christian Dvorak who would need to be involved in the deal for the trade to occur.
Their only no-move-clause is Ekman-Larsson, meaning they could protect Dumba as well as their high-end defensemen in Chychrun. This could be a very realistic landing spot as the Wild would get an immediate return instead of future assets. Dvorak, 25, has established himself as a middle-six center but has shown flashes of his ability to be a strong top-six center, something the Wild desperately need, almost as much as the Coyotes needing a top-four defenseman on the right side.
Columbus Blue Jackets
With Seth Jones likely departing – as he has voiced his decision on testing free agency, which will potentially result in a trade beforehand – the Columbus Blue Jackets will need a right-shot defenseman. Dumba could be a potential option to fill their hole on the backend.
There’s not much in the Blue Jackets’ system as they have one of the weakest in the league, according to Scott Wheeler of The Athletic, who had them 27th in his yearly prospect pool rankings (Wheeler: NHL 2021 NHL prospect pool rankings, the Athletic, 02/09/2021). The Wild would likely ask about one of Alexander Texier and Emil Bemstrom. One of them and a pick could probably get it done.
The Blue Jackets also won’t have any issues protecting Dumba with the Seattle Expansion Draft looming. The only person that is a protection lock is Zach Werenski, assuming Jones is gone.
The likelihood of the Wild and Blue Jackets making a trade centered around Dumba is probably not very likely. This is more likely if the Blue Jackets end up falling out of the race for any big fish or high-profile defensemen. This all depends on the result of the Jones situation too.
If they do indeed lose Jones, their right side will be exposed, and they will need a right-shot defenseman. However, with the departure of their star players over the past several seasons, is it likely a high-end defenseman would want to go to the Blue Jackets after everything that has transpired? Probably not, making this a possibility.
The Buffalo Sabres don’t necessarily have a huge need for Dumba at the moment. However, the rumors once again have Rasmus Ristolainen as a potential departure this summer. That and the possibility of the Wild being in the Jack Eichel Sweepstakes make these teams potential trade partners.
Dumba only goes to the Sabres if a Jack Eichel trade occurs. This is highly unlikely, but given that the Wild are likely one of the teams pursuing the franchise center, the Sabres are still a team that could potentially get Dumba.
The expansion draft is an obvious factor as Rasmus Dahlin, and Jake McCabe are protection locks. The acquisition of Dumba would expose youngster Henri Jokiharju, but it would be worth it considering Dumba’s contract and value.
This is the least likely destination on this list for the defensemen, but maybe the Sabres would have interest since Ristolainen has fallen out of favor and Colin Miller hasn’t done more than struggle since his arrival, making the right side an area of need for them.
The Wild have a difficult situation on their hands. Another interesting layer is that Dumba’s modified 10-team no-trade clause comes into effect on July 28. That is why the options are very limited right now because if they don’t trade him before expansion, they might be stuck with him for the remainder of his contract.
This is an issue because the Wild have replacements for him, and the cap space in his departure would be a huge asset going forward. This is just one barrier they have to maneuver around in this eventful offseason.
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.