Wild re-sign Matt Dumba with Jason Zucker up next

Marc Elliott

Matt Dumba OT Winner VS STL  12022017
Matt Dumba OT Winner VS STL 12022017

Lake Vermilion… The NHL Minnesota Wild and emerging star defenseman Matt Dumba have agreed on a new contract late last Friday evening that will net Dumba $30mil over the next 5 seasons. From a salary cap standpoint, the contracts AAV is it’s average, or $6mil per season that will count against the cap. The details of the contract are that Dumba will receive a salary of $5.2mil for the 18-19 season, $7.4mil for the 19-20 season, $4.8mil in the 20-21 season, $7.4mil in the 21-22 season and finally $5.2mil in the 22-23 year. The deal also features a limited 10 team no-trade clause during its final two years, which would also represent Dumba’s first two years of achieving UFA status.

The anti-Dumba crowd is quick to point out his defensive flaws, usually borne out of risk taking gone bad, and the pro-Dumba crowd will go to his offensive upside and his level of skill there. I am glad this deal has been made and I’m glad that it has been forged in the manner that it has. The dollars are workable for the club if for no other reason that if the team gave Dumba a shorter-term deal and his offensive game continued to elevate, they would be on the hook for a higher dollar amount in his next deal. The term is workable as well and since it will cover at least two of his UFA years it gives the team a chance to see where Dumba is trending later in his career and where his next contract should take both parties given that he continues to be productive and doesn’t suffer any serious career altering injuries.

As always NHL GM’s look for data to utilize during negotiations and over the past three years Dumba has ranked 1st or 2nd on the Wild in all important offensive categories for defensemen and ranked 3rd in another. Relative to league rankings, Dumba was top ten in two of these stats, top 20 in three, top 30 in two more and top 40 in the final stat and I don’t think he has reached his full offensive peak yet. But for all his offensive skill I have witnessed a solid faction of posters and bloggers more focused on some gaffes and errors committed by Dumba then on his total game during his Wild tenure. I get it. Every team and every player has them. The refrain of too much money was common, too much term, makes too many mistakes, takes too many chances were frequent criticisms.

Well heck, show me young developing players who don’t make mistakes. The dollar value? If Dumba continues to advance offensively, you will be looking at this contract as a bargain in years to come. The term? Wild GM Paul Fenton was probably in a tough spot regarding term. A shorter bridge deal would have been rejected by Dumba’s legal team or forced a higher salary level thus upsetting the team cap balance and very well could have created a contract that would bump up against his impending UFA status in three years. And if Team Dumba were forced to the arbitration table, those situations don’t always go in favor of the team. The team also has made a substantial investment in Dumba time-wise and monetarily and I believe a real good dividend is about to be realized here. Today’s star NHL D-men are offensively gifted, and they aren’t necessarily defensively so. That’s how NHL defenders are paid today for the most part. Dumba is no different. He shares one dubious stat with another pretty good star defender from Tampa, Victor Hedman. They tied at second in the league for being on the ice for the most 5 on 5 goals against at 75. Big Vic just won the Norris Trophy for being the NHL’s best defenseman for the 17-18 season. Go figure. But both guys put up points and can take the biscuit up ice when needed. I think this is a good deal. Congrats to Matt Dumba….

NEXT UP as of this writing is Forward Jason Zucker. With his arbitration hearing coming up on Saturday the 28th, the briefs for the hearing must be filed 48 hours prior to it thus creating a deadline for the briefs to be handed over on Thursday the 26th. Word has it that Zucker is seeking more then $6mil per season. Zucker’s representation, Eustace King will be in the Twin Cities this week and it is anticipated that he will meet with the club on Wednesday in person. At this point it is believed that the team is offering in the low to mid-level $5mil plus range with the term unknown. This one is a tough call. Does it get settled or does it go to arbitration? Here are some vital factors to be considered; after the upcoming season Zucker becomes an UFA. He has been with the Wild since the tail end of the 2011-12 season and appeared in 6 NHL games then.

In the 12-13 and 13-14 seasons he split time between the Houston Aero’s and the Wild, then the Iowa Wild and the big club before sticking with the Wild for the better part of the 14-15 season forward. During the 14-15 campaign in 51 tilts with the Wild he scored 21 goals, but only 5 assists. From the 15-16 season on he has tallied 71GP/13G/10A for 23 pts. He then had 79GP/22G/25A for 47 points, and in last seasons efforts had 82GP/33G/31A for 64 pts. On the downside for Zucker, he has performed poorly in the playoffs. In 31 total playoff games for the Wild, Zucker has 4G and 4A for 8 pts featuring a 5 game - no points showing in last spring’s playoff Winnipeg Jets spinout. I should also note that in the 16-17 season Zucker was a plus 34 player and doesn’t take many penalties, in 334 career GP he has a total of 124 PIM’s. That’s respectable.  

Pro analysts are saying that Zucker’s comparables put him in a category to get paid. His last 3 seasons show 232GP/68G/66A/134pts. They say he compares to Logan Couture who just inked an 8yr/$64mil deal, TJ Oshie on an 8yr/$46mil deal and Cam Atkinson on a 7yr/$41.125 deal. Their numbers are different since Zucker has more GP then all of them in the last three seasons. So, a better data set might be in PPG. In that, Couture is at .748, Oshie is at .725, Atkinson is at .734 and Zucker comes in at .577ppg. Additionally, all three players have had superior playoff performance relative to Zucker. Considering this I would say the teams offer in the low fives with perhaps a 6-year term might work and Zucker might be taking a risk to go through with an arb hearing. Either way it looks to be a most interesting week for the Wild! PEACE