MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Minnesota Wild have been searching for a reliable goalie for years, an issue that almost cost them dearly before Devan Dubnyk arrived to save their season.
Their investment in Devan Dubnyk shows they don't believe his stellar play over the final four months of last season was a fluke.
The Wild agreed to terms with Dubnyk on a six-year contract Saturday, cementing the 29-year-old as the unquestioned man between the pipes for the foreseeable future.
''We've been chasing our goaltending a little bit the last couple years, chasing stability in the goaltending position,'' Wild GM Chuck Fletcher told reporters at the NHL draft in Sunrise, Florida. ''And we're hopeful that Devan can be a steadying influence back there.''
Dubnyk was so much more than that for the Wild last season. The team was languishing at 18-19-5 in mid-January, one of the biggest disappointments in the league thanks in large part to its shaky goalies. That's when Fletcher sent a third-round draft pick to Arizona for Dubnyk, who was a backup for the Coyotes after five uneven years with the woeful Edmonton Oilers.
From the moment he first hit the ice for the Wild, Dubnyk was a force in net. He posted a 1.78 goals-against average while starting 39 of the final 40 games of the season as the Wild frantically climbed back into the playoff picture.
They finished the season as the sixth seed in the Western Conference and beat the St. Louis Blues in the first round before getting swept by the Chicago Blackhawks in the semifinals. Players and coaches widely credited Dubnyk's calming influence with turning things around and saving the team's season.
While the Wild and Dubnyk went back and forth in negotiations, there was some debate about whether Dubnyk's relatively short burst of dominant play could be relied upon for years to come. At 29, Dubnyk was looking for some long-term security, while the Wild were looking to keep the average annual value as reasonable as possible to give them more flexibility going forward.
The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported that Dubnyk received $26 million, a $4.33 million average annual salary.
''We've analyzed it to death,'' Fletcher said. ''We've looked at it every which way and we're very comfortable with this signing.''
That doesn't mean Fletcher is expecting the same kind of dominant performance from Dubnyk over the next six years that he gave them over the second half of last season. But he also made it clear that the Wild believe he is just starting to play his best as he enters his eighth NHL season.
''I don't think we're asking him to duplicate what he did this year every year. Maybe that's not realistic,'' Fletcher said. ''But we believe he can be a good goaltender in this league and he's right at the stage of his career where he's ready to take off. He's right in his prime.''
Fletcher also said that the team is ''very close'' with center Mikael Granlund on a new contract. Fletcher said he had yet to speak with Granlund's agent, Todd Diamond, on Saturday, probably because his time was being occupied while he put the finishing touches on Dubnyk's deal. But Fletcher hoped to have something finished with Granlund by Monday.
''We'll see if we can't close the gap,'' Fletcher said. ''If (Diamond) just gets a little more reasonable we'll get it done.''