Dumba, who turns 24 on Tuesday, was a restricted free agent due for a new deal. And with an arbitration hearing on Monday, July 23rd, there was urgency to settle on a long-term contract.
The Wild has made it a focus in recent seasons to retain their mid-20s players. Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Mikael Granlund, and Nino Niederreiter are all under long-term contracts. But none of them cashed in as much as Dumba, who will make an average of $6 million per year. That’s the Wild’s highest cap hit for anyone not named “Zach Parise” or “Ryan Suter.”
This long-term commitment to Dumba didn’t always seem inevitable. Entering last summer, the Vegas expansion draft left his future in question. Minnesota committed to keeping him in the expansion draft, but a rocky start led to questioning as to whether that commitment was the right decision.
Dumba put the tough start behind him, however, and put together a breakout season. He went on to score 14 goals and 50 points in the regular season, both ranking in the Top-3 in franchise history. It was a year that delivered on the talent that was so apparent when the Wild drafted him 7th-overall in 2012.
Not only did it rank well among the best seasons ever for a Wild blue liner, it also ranks well among the NHL. Dumba’s 14 goals ranked 15th among defensemen in the NHL, and his 50 points were 19th.
But it’s not just the times Dumba puts the puck in the net himself that makes him valuable. The fact is, Minnesota has a knack for scoring a lot whenever Dumba hits the ice. In the 4 years since Dumba entered the league, the Wild have scored 2.92 goals per hour with him on the ice at 5-on-5 play. No defenseman with 2000+ minutes has done better in that regard.
And while some focus on perceived defensive deficiencies and mistakes, he acquits himself well as a defender, too. In that four-year stretch, Dumba allowed 2.19 goals against per hour at 5-on-5. That ranks him 55th among the 152 defensemen with 3000+ minutes in that span. Perhaps that’s not elite, but he’s certainly been above-average.
All in all, he’s made a dramatic positive impact for Minnesota over the last 4 seasons. With Dumba on the ice, Minnesota out-scored opponents 226-170 at 5-on-5. That’s a whopping 57.2% of the goals, which ranks 9th among 152 defensemen during that time.
The results speak for themselves.
So Minnesota rewarded him with this contract, which more or less pays him market value over the next 5 seasons. According to Cap Friendly, Dumba’s new deal is similar to other young offensive defensemen such as Tyson Barrie, Colton Parayko, and Torey Krug.
This contract also helps solidify the right side of Minnesota’s defense in the coming years. Right-shot defensemen are rare in this league, and when you have one that can play top-pair minutes, that’s gold in the NHL. The Wild have had a drought of right-shot defensive prospects that they’ve only recently started to address. Locking down Dumba for the next 5 years buys the team a lot of time to build up that prospect pipeline.
Looking forward, the Wild have about $8 million dollars of cap room right now, with only Jason Zucker needing to be re-signed. A reasonable guess would be Zucker’s cap hit coming somewhere between Niederreiter’s ($5.25 million) and Dumba’s ($6 million). Assuming it does, Minnesota should enter the season with at least $2 million of breathing room against the cap.
Minnesota has been constrained by cap woes in recent seasons, limiting their flexibility with call-ups and at the trade deadline. The Wild front office should feel some relief knowing that they will have the ability to operate without the salary cap keeping them up at night.
Zucker’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for July 28th, so expect to hear news on that front in the coming week.