Although the Minnesota Wild played well in their seven-game first round series against the Vegas Golden Knights, losing with dignity to one of the best teams in the NHL this season, their loss has already fired the rumor mill back up, reports Sarah MacLellan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. At the center of the speculation yet again is defenseman Matt Dumba. Despite another strong season for the 26-year-old blue liner, capped off by a postseason in which he tied for the team lead in points, there is still speculation over Dumba’s future in Minnesota stemming from the impending NHL Expansion Draft. The Wild can only protect three defensemen and seven forwards or instead eight skaters total from selection by the Seattle Kraken. With Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, and Jonas Brodin all carrying No-Movement Clauses, the trio all must be protected. The only way that the team can use the 7-3 format and also protect Dumba would be fore one those three to waive their NMC and allow themselves to be exposed. Otherwise, the Wild will have to protect eight skaters, but with Zach Parise and Mats Zuccarello also with No-Movement Clauses, this would mean Minnesota would have to leave multiple promising young forwards exposed in order to make room for Dumba, including at least one of Joel Eriksson Ek or Jordan Greenway. One thing that is certain is that Minnesota will not let Dumba be taken for free by future Western Conference rival Seattle. If the team cannot convince a veteran to waive their NMC and decide the 7-3 protection scheme is their best choice, Dumba will be traded before the Expansion Draft – hence the abundant speculation. Dumba has stated many times that he would like to remain with the Wild, so the organization is obviously doing all they can to make it work.
- Another player who would like to stay in Minnesota is Parise. The 36-year-old is coming off of a down year and was even benched for the first three games of the Wild’s first round series. However, he impressed in the remainder of the series once activated. Parise can still play at a high level, but not commensurate to his $7.5MM+ cap hit over four more years. The Wild have tried to move the contract in the past and may do so again this summer, but Parise hopes they don’t. He told Dane Mizutani of TwinCities.com that he “[doesn’t] want to play anywhere else” but for his hometown team. As Mizutani points out, he shouldn’t be too worried given his albatross of a contract. Ironically though, one way that Parise could prove his loyalty to the club would be to waive his NMC for the Expansion Draft, allowing Minnesota to protect all of Dumba, Eriksson Ek, and Greenway in an 8-skater format. There is no way that Seattle would touch Parise’s contract, so it could be a win-win for both sides.
- While the Wild are certainly not looking forward to the Expansion Draft – even if Dumba, Eriksson Ek, and Greenway are safe, the team will still lose a good player like Carson Soucy or Marcus Foligno – they are definitely excited for the NHL Entry Draft. With the Pittsburgh Penguins opting to send their 2021 first-round pick rather than their 2020 for last year’s Jason Zucker trade, the Wild will now have two picks in the top 32 this year. Not only that, but they will have two picks very close together as well. Minnesota’s own pick is locked in at No. 22 overall, but if the Tampa Bay Lightning advance to the next round, Pittsburgh’s pick will be No. 25, allowing the Wild to control the board with two picks out of four selections. They could also look to package the two picks to potentially move up into the top half of the first round. With a pipeline that is already well-stocked, Minnesota has put themselves in position to stay competitive for a long time with a strong roster and deep system after adding two first-rounders this year, as well as all of their own picks and another Pittsburgh pick in the third round.