The Minnesota Wild locked up their lone remaining restricted free agent Thursday evening when Matt Dumba put pen to paper on a two-year, $5.1-million deal.
For Dumba, 22, the deal is a standard bridge contract and he knows that. Dumba became an NHL regular in 2015-16, and he set career-highs with 10 goals and 26 points in 81 games, and Dumba told NHL.com’s Dan Myers that the bridge deal simply worked for him at this point.
“I just want to grow as a player,” Dumba told Myers. “Getting that opportunity to do so and prove myself over the next couple of years, I think is huge. I think I'll be right at my peak at the end of that and hopefully then I can sign something long term.”
And while Dumba may have his sights set on a long-term, big-money deal when his bridge deal is up, getting him locked up to a short-term contract for the time being was important for the Wild and GM Chuck Fletcher. With more than $15 million locked up in defensemen 26 or younger, Dumba’s short-term deal allows Fletcher to decide which defenseman will eventually be moving on.
It has long been rumored that one of the young defensemen in Minnesota will be shipped out in order to bring more scoring to the Wild, but no clear trade candidate has been decided. At times, it’s been Dumba’s name that has been mentioned in connection with trade talks. Others, it’s either Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella or Jonas Brodin whose names pop up on the rumor mill. But with Dumba under wraps for another two seasons — and for a palatable $2.55-million per season — Fletcher can be patient in deciding which defenseman moves on. The fact of the matter, however, is that one will eventually need to be dealt.
The Wild still have more than enough room to operate under the salary cap with nearly $2.2 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly, but the Dumba signing means a third-pairing blueliner will be making at least upwards of $2.5 million this coming season. In the long-term, that’s going to be awfully difficult to work with.
In addition, if Dumba is going to be a future top-pairing blueliner for the Wild, he’ll expect to be paid like one. And he sounds confident in his ability to sign a long-term deal that will see him get yet another significant pay raise. The Wild sound as if they want Dumba to be a mainstay on their blueline, too.
"We think he's going to be a point-producing defenseman and we hope he keeps going and improving,” Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr told Myers. “We know he's going to get his day and hopefully, next time, it's a long-term deal that keeps him in a Wild uniform for a long time."
All that means, though, is Minnesota will have to be very wary of the fact Dumba is up for another deal by the time the 2018-19 campaign rolls around. Minnesota will need to free up space to ink the youngster to another deal at that point, and with each of Spurgeon, Brodin, Scandella and Ryan Suter locked up until 2019-20 and earning roughly $21 million per season, it’s not going to be easy to fit another $4-million defenseman under the cap.
Before the time comes for Dumba to get re-signed — and likely before the expansion draft comes to pass — the Wild will have to make a decision about who stays and who goes from their blueline. Locking up Dumba to a two-year deal affords the Wild the time to decide which defenseman that will be, but that’s not going to be an easy choice.
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