After a season of career highs, the Minnesota Wild signed restricted free agent defenseman Matt Dumba to a five-year contract on Saturday, avoiding arbitration.
The 23-year-old blueliner’s deal will carry a reported $6 million AAV and keep him under contract through the 2022–23 season. The final two years of the deal carry a modified no-trade clause.
The payday represents a sizable raise for the Saskatchewan native, who is coming off a two-year deal worth $5.1 million.
"Five more years, I think of five solid years in Minnesota," Dumba said. "It has become home for me. It was a no brainer. ... I'm very appreciative and happy to know I'm going to be in the State of Hockey for five more years."
Dumba has posted 44 goals and 128 points in five seasons since being drafted by the Wild with the No. 7 pick in 2012. He's added eight points in 26 career postseason games. His 2017-18 season included 14 goals, 36 assists and 50 points, all personal bests.
"We expect Matt to play the same role, or even add to the role that he’s starting to come into," Minnesota GM Paul Fenton said on a conference call. "It’s hard to find these right defenseman that can add a game-breaking ability."
"I look back at my personal growth over the season and I want that to just be the start," Dumba said. "I think I started the year a little slow, to be honest, and if I can play at the pace I was down the stretch the entire season, I think, I hope, I'm just scratching the surface."
The Wild hope so as well. The new contract makes the blueliner the third-highest AAV on the Wild roster, behind the $7.5 million cap hit per season for defensman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise. The team now has 24 players under contract with approximately $5.6 million in space left, as per CapFriendly. It's a price Fenton was willing to pay for a player he's already seen enter some very good company.
"If you look at Matt’s production over the last three years, if you really break it down to all the defensemen that have, since '05-06, that have been able to score in double digits in goals and been this productive, it’s a pretty elite group," Fenton said." He’s one of four guys that has had three consecutive years of 10-plus goals before he’s 23 years old: [Aaron] Ekblad, [Dion] Phaneuf, [Taylor] Doherty and himself. When you look at it in that light and you’re seeing him going forward as possibly getting better, then it certainly made sense for us to go the term that we did."
Dumba returns to a defensive unit that has seen a few additions this offseason, but will still ice a top-four that also includes Suter, Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon. Suter is coming off a season-ending ankle surgery, but expects to be ready for the new seasons. In locking up Dumba, the Minnesota blue line is buttoned up.
"Our top four, this actually solidifies us," Fenton said. "We made the free agent signing of [Greg] Pateryn to try to balance us out a little bit. ... I love the competitiveness that Matt brings to the game on top of the offense and I think that was the attraction here; we wanted to keep our defense intact here."
"With the top four that we have and all the different situations we can play in in addition to [Pateryn] and some of the other guys and the younger guys, older guys ... all these guys, it's a good mix of guys and I think you need that depth for sure [on defense]," Dumba said.
Minnesota also added forwards Eric Fehr, Matt Cullen and JT Brown, as well as goalie Andrew Hammond, via free agency. Still outstanding on the Wild summer to-do list, however, is a new contract for forward Jason Zucker, the last remaining RFA on their list, who has an arbitration hearing on July 28.
"The rest of this week, that will certainly be something we’ll try to work on and get a resolution," Fenton said of the forward's upcoming contract.
"I want to be in Minnesota,” Zucker said earlier this month. “I love Minnesota. My family roots are now here. This is a second home to us and I want to be here. We have a great team. We have a lot of really good things going for us. … If it was my choice, I’d be here playing for the Wild next season.”