Matt Dumba has been a heart and soul player for the Minnesota Wild since he was drafted by the organization with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft — but all good things must come to an end, and it seems as though the defenseman's days in the State of Hockey are numbered.
The Wild are in NHL salary cap h**l for the next two years, with a $14 million cap hit for the buyouts of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. The team has around $8 million in cap space to fill seven roster spots, and as Dumba is an unrestricted free agent, it just doesn't seem like there is any scenario where the club could realistically re-sign him and also pay him anywhere near what he is worth.
Although the Wild front office have a ton of respect for Dumba, as he is a popular teammate and a key member of the organization, it just doesn't seem like a deal will get done. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported on his 32 Thoughts Podcast that the team will try to find a way to free up the cap space needed before Jul. 1.
Dumba played 598 regular-season games in a Wild sweater, and another 49 playoff games. Although the success didn't come, he gave everything to the organization, and will leave the team speaking well of him for the rest of his career. But it looks like the partnership is over, and expect the blueliner to hit the open market over the weekend. Here are three potential landing spots for the 28-year-old.
3. Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators are trending in the right direction in terms of getting close to contending for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but there are still some glaring holes that need to be filled. GM Pierre Dorion confirmed this offseason that the team's “rebuild is done,” meaning they should be relatively busy in free agency. After adding Jakob Chychrun at the NHL Trade Deadline, the club's defense still needs some work, especially on the right side.
Enter Matt Dumba, who the Sens reportedly were already interested in at the deadline last season. He would be a great fit on the second pairing with either Chychrun or Thomas Chabot, and he is still young enough that he would be effective when the team is really looking to compete for a Stanley Cup.
The organization's No. 1 need is a goaltender with Cam Talbot moving on, but they badly need a top-four, right-shot defenseman, and that's exactly who Dumba could be for Ottawa in free agency.
2. Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings are a team that's very much in the same boat as Ottawa — they're in the Atlantic Division, they're looking to make the playoffs next year, and they're in need of an upgrade on the back end. Although they got a nice return from the Vancouver Canucks for Filip Hronek, it left a massive hole on the right side for the Michigan-based franchise.
The Wings have some money to work with in the offseason, and they could offer Dumba long-term security, a factor almost all NHL players covet. GM Steve Yzerman is looking for a goaltender, like Dorion, but the D-core is just as important for Detroit. Dumba could fit in well with either Olli Maatta or Ben Chiarot on the second pairing, with Moritz Seider holding down the right side of the first pairing. With Hronek gone, adding Matt Dumba just makes sense for the Red Wings, and Yzerman absolutely knows that.
Expect that the Red Wings will at least be having a conversation with Matt Dumba when free agency opens on Jul. 1.
1. Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres are another team knocking on the door in the Atlantic Division — it's already the best division in hockey, and figures to remain so for the foreseeable future. The Sabres have Owen Power and Rasmus Dahlin, two staples on the back end for probably the next decade in Western New York.
Adding Matt Dumba would be an excellent move for the Sabres, who have an excellent young core and an extremely bright future. It's only a matter of time before Buffalo breaks the longest postseason drought in the NHL, and that could happen as soon as next season. With Dumba, the Sabres could potentially push for a top-three spot in the Atlantic in 2023-24.
Although there is a very slim chance that Matt Dumba and the Minnesota Wild reunite this offseason, expect that the 28-year-old will be signing a long-term contract in NHL free agency, and there's a great chance that the team who gets him will be in the Atlantic Division.