With the NHL Free Agency starting on July 1, there has been a lot of talk on where various players across the league will find their new homes. Among the top free agents available is current Minnesota Wild goaltender, Devan Dubnyk.
On July 1, Dubnyk’s one-year, $800,000 contract will come to a close. Before the trade that brought him to the Wild on January 14, Dubnyk was struggling to keep his NHL career alive; and was floating from team to team, before he finally landed a contract with the Arizona Coyotes. Goalie coach, Sean Burke, seemed to help Dubnyk re-discover his skill that had allowed him to be picked in the first round of the 2004 NHL Draft.
In the midst of the 2014-15 NHL season, the Wild were struggling as a team, and did not look like they would make an appearance in the playoffs. They needed a desperate change; and the goaltender situation appeared to be the main target to improve, as Darcy Kuemper was not performing well, and Niklas Backstrom was injured. The Wild decided to give Dubnyk a chance between the pipes, and acquired him for just a third round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. This trade would completely turn the Wild’s year around, as Dubnyk played incredibly for the rest of the regular season, posting a .929 save percentage, and a 2.07 goals against average. This performance that saved the Minnesota Wild’s season, also earned him a nomination as a Vezina Finalist; and guaranteed that his NHL career was still alive, just one year after he was sent down to the American Hockey League.
The Wild finished the 2014-15 regular season quite well, earning them a position to face-off against the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Dubnyk continued his stellar performance, keeping the Wild competitive in every game except the fourth, in which he let six goals past him. He did not let that one poor performance get him down though, as he came out for games five and six with a positive mentality, and ended up leading the Wild to clinch the series; setting them up to square off against the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round. This would be the third season in a row that the Wild would play against the Blackhawks in the playoffs, and they hoped this would be the one where they advanced to the next round.
Unfortunately for the Wild, they would be swept by the Hawks, proving to not yet be a Stanley Cup team. There were many reasons the Wild were not able to advance on from this series, but one of the most important ones may be the fact that Dubnyk did not perform as his regular self during this series. Before this series, he seemed to be making impossible saves, but Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks made him look very human between the pipes. In every game that was played during that series, Dubnyk let pucks past him that he normally wouldn’t. Of course, Dubnyk cannot solely be blamed for the loss, as his team was not performing in front of him; and the Blackhawks are a very talented and experienced team, while the Wild are just finding the feel of the playoffs. Nonetheless, every great team seems to have a goaltender who is able to steal games for them, especially when it matters the most; in the playoffs.
With the Wild’s season coming to an end, Dubnyk has began discussing what he is looking for in his next contract, and it isn’t cheap. Dubnyk has been rumored to be asking for a multi-year contract, at about $5 million per season. Even though he is a Vezina finalist, it may not be in the Wild’s best interest to re-sign him. Dubnyk’s story on saving the Wild’s season and his career is nothing less than incredible, but the fact that he has shown himself to be, well, mortal could be a concern for the Wild. His shaky performance in the second round of the 2015 playoffs and his expensive contract might be a deal-breaker for the Wild. With his past of poor performances on other teams, signing this spendy contract could be extremely risky. Unfortunately, the Wild have doused themselves in a handful of long-term and pricey contracts, which could also make it tough for them to afford Dubnyk, especially since he may not be exactly what they need. To make matters even worse, the most obvious route of buying out Backstrom to create cap space may not be possible, since he is injured. Although the man known as “Dub” instantly became a fan favorite, he may not be someone that the Wild are able to re-sign, unless he lowers his asking price significantly.