Minnesota Wild GM Paul Fenton hasn’t been on the job long, but he and his staff made an astute signing over the weekend when they got defenseman Mathew Dumba to commit to a new five-year pact.
The contract comes with a $6 million annual cap hit, propelling Dumba into a new earning bracket, albeit one the youngster deserves. The key for Fenton was locking up the D-man at a fair price; a bridge deal of two or three years could have seen Dumba’s value skyrocket if he continues to take on the responsibility he did this past season.
“He played almost 24 minutes a game last year,” Fenton said. “It’s hard to find a right-handed defenseman with game-breaking ability. I love the competitiveness that Matt brings to the game, along with the offense. And we wanted to keep our defense together.”
Minnesota’s roster is in a bit of limbo right now. The Wild are good, but not great. The franchise has some really big contracts on the books and those deals - to veterans Ryan Suter and Zach Parise - will begin to hamper Fenton’s efforts as those players reach the twilights of their careers. Suter played nearly 27 minutes a night this past season, which is an astounding amount. It was good for second in the league to Los Angeles Kings star Drew Doughty, but Suter is also 33 years old already. The ascension of Dumba and partner Jonas Brodin will help eat up those minutes in the coming years, while Jared Spurgeon will also have to keep up his Yeoman’s work. Fenton also cited new signing Greg Pateryn as someone he hoped would flesh out the blueline.
But in terms of upside, Dumba is the most intriguing. Few defensemen have been able to score double-digit goals as consistently as Dumba before the age of 23 (Doughty was one, as were Aaron Ekblad and Dion Phaneuf) and with Suter around, he has a pretty good role model for what a top-flight defenseman can be. Dumba’s challenge now is to iron out his play away from the puck. As a player who made his name in junior with flashy, physical play - not unlike young Phaneuf - taming his wilder side is top priority. His new GM isn’t concerned, however.
“Maturity plays into that,” Fenton said. “There’s a risk/reward factor, but the risk has allowed him to score double-digit goals - he’s got that bomb (shot). As he matures, it will smooth itself out.”
And once he does, the Wild will have an even better player on their hands. Toss in some great prospects up front in Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin, Joel Eriksson-Ek (I still believe) and the mythical Kirill Kaprizov, and Minnesota has a nice future. How they transition from the Parises and Mikko Koivus of the world will be the most interesting development in the coming years and it won’t be easy: Minnesota will never be too bad with this lineup, but the Wild also can’t hang with Winnipeg or Nashville in the West.
At the least, Fenton has given himself some cost certainty with Dumba and based on the way he has played recently, the young blueliner will be worth every penny over the course of his new contract. Heck, in a couple years, he’ll probably look like a huge bargain.