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Screen Shots: Matt Dumba, Vezina Trophy and Ryan Miller

Adam Proteau discusses the Minnesota Wild scratching Matt Dumba, the close race among goalies for the Vezina Trophy and the Buffalo Sabres honoring Ryan Miller.
Ryan Miller

This is Screen Shots, a regular feature in which we break down a few different hockey topics into smaller paragraphs for your reading enjoyment. Let’s get to it.

The Minnesota Wild made a splash Thursday morning when they announced veteran defenseman Matt Dumba would be a healthy scratch for their road game against Carolina.

Wild coach Dean Evason called the move a “hockey” decision, meaning the scratch had nothing to do with Dumba’s health. In doing so, Evason sparked speculation that Dumba’s scratch was the predecessor move to a trade out of Minnesota for the 28-year-old blueliner, who is in the final year of a contract with a salary cap hit of $6 million per season. 

The cap-strapped Wild will likely be unable to sign Dumba to a contract extension, so many are presuming his days with Minnesota are down to double-digits.

There will likely be no shortage of suitors for Dumba, including teams such as the Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators. But any Dumba trade will have to bring the Wild NHL-ready players and not draft picks and prospects. Minnesota is firmly in win-now mode, and Wild GM Bill Guerin needs to make a Dumba deal work for his cap space next season, as well as his team’s competitiveness now.

We may have seen Dumba’s last day as a member of the Wild, but he won’t be moved if Guerin can’t get a strong package in return. Instead, the Wild may choose to see Dumba as an internal rental and bid goodbye to him when this season ends. But we suspect Guerin won’t wait that long and will send Dumba to the highest bidder. 

That bidding process is likely already underway, which is why Dumba may be sitting out against Carolina. You don’t want your biggest trade chip to be injured as you’re on the precipice of moving him to another organization.

We’re past the midway point in the regular season, and the race for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender is incredibly tight. 

Indeed, how do you choose between star netminders Connor Hellebuyck (2.41 goals-against average, .924 save percentage) of the Winnipeg Jets, Linus Ullmark (1.88 GAA, .937 SP) of the Boston Bruins, Jake Oettinger (2.26 GAA, .924 SP) of the Dallas Stars, Ilya Sorokin (2.30 GAA, .925 SP) of the New York Islanders, and Igor Shesterkin (2.43 GAA, .918 SP) of the New York Rangers?

If this keeps up, there will be at least two netminders at the end of the season who can justifiably feel wrongly left out of the Vezina mix. But this speaks to the importance of the goalie position and the elite ability that approximately one-fifth of the NHL’s goaltenders possess. 

Ullmark currently is the odds-on favorite for the Vezina, but we’d be more comfortable betting on the field against him simply because there are so many other goalies who could step up their game even more in the second half of the year. 

In any case, the Vezina race may turn out to be the tightest of all the NHL’s individual awards and will be worth keeping an eye on all season long.

Finally, congratulations to former NHL goalie Ryan Miller, who is having his No. 30 jersey retired Thursday night in Buffalo. 

Miller, who has more career regular-season wins (391) than any American goaltender in NHL history, will also be inducted into the Sabres’ Hall of Fame Thursday, and he’s very deserving of the honors.

Miller didn’t have much playoff success, but that’s much more of a comment on the state of the Sabres in his 11 seasons with the team than it is on Miller himself. The 42-year-old gave Buffalo a solid chance to win every game he played, and that consistent on-ice excellence is what the Sabres will honor along with his commitment to the region off the ice Thursday evening. 


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