Generally speaking, impact defensemen are snapped up quickly in free agency. However, now three weeks into the open market, Mathew Dumba remains without a contract which comes as a bit of a surprise.
Back in 2018, the 28-year-old was coming off a breakout year, one that saw him put up 50 points while logging nearly 24 minutes a night. It looked as if he was well on his way to becoming a long-term, top-pairing piece for Minnesota. However, he battled injury trouble the following year and since then, things haven’t gone as well.
Dumba has yet to reach the 30-point plateau since his career year and was basically taken off the power play entirely last season. Despite that, he has continually logged heavy minutes for the Wild and entered free agency as arguably the top right-shot defender available after Damon Severson reached a sign-and-trade deal with Columbus, taking his name off the free agent list in the process.
But despite that status and what has still been a pretty successful career thus far, Dumba remains unsigned. It’s a situation where he might have to wait for another domino to fall before his market really opens up as well.
2022-23: 79 GP, 4-10-14, -8 rating, 81 PIMS, 99 shots, 116 blocks, 49.0% CF, 21:17 ATOI
Career: 598 GP, 79-157-236, +29 rating, 399 PIMS, 1,121 shots, 699 blocks, 49.1% CF, 20:37 ATOI
There are a couple of potential types of suitors for Dumba’s services. There will be some that strike out in the Erik Karlsson sweepstakes that will turn around and pivot to Dumba to try to land at least a top-four addition. Alternatively, if the market isn’t to Dumba’s liking, he’s a strong candidate to sign a one-year pillow contract with an eye on boosting his value, possibly being moved at the deadline, and hitting the market again next summer in a more favorable cap environment.
In the East, Toronto showed interest in him early before pivoting to former teammate John Klingberg. While making the money would be tricky, they’re believed to have shown interest in Karlsson so new GM Brad Treliving appears to have some sort of plan to get creative to make the money work. Dumba might not be a great long-term fit in Detroit but they have enough cap space for a one-year agreement that would go a long way toward helping their playoff chances. With Carolina sniffing around on Karlsson, it stands to reason that Dumba could be an option there as well assuming they can open up the cap space to do so. If he’s willing to sign for the type of money that Brett Pesce (a UFA next summer) isn’t, there could be a long-term fit.
Out West, the Coyotes have been linked to Dumba since the market opened up. They have a definite need to add on the back end and could be a fit either on a pillow deal or a longer-term agreement where he becomes a key part of their core group. Depending on what happens with Karlsson and if they take a right-shot defender back as part of a return, the Sharks could be a fit for both options as well. If Nashville is looking to stay in the playoff mix, Dumba would help solidify their top four and they have the cap space to sign him without needing to make another move. If Anaheim wants to do like they did with Klingberg a year ago, the Ducks could be a viable landing spot for a one-year deal with the hopes that this one would turn out better than the deal with Klingberg ultimately did.
Dumba slotted in 18th on our Top 50 UFA Rankings with a projected contract of four years at an AAV of $5.25MM. At this point in time, it seems fair to suggest that a deal of that value hasn’t been on the table yet; otherwise, he likely would have taken it. It’s possible that Dumba could still reach that price tag but only on a one-year deal. Otherwise, a longer-term agreement might check in closer to the $4MM mark. If Dumba believes a change of scenery could help him rediscover his offensive touch, he might be better off taking a one-year agreement and then aiming for a better longer-term deal than he could get now in 2024 when there should be more money to spend in free agency.
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