With just a few weeks left before the trade deadline, an interesting wrinkle has appeared in Minnesota. The Wild are going to make Matt Dumba a healthy scratch tonight, according to Michael Russo of The Athletic. The “hockey decision” is based on his play, notes Sarah McLellan of the Star-Tribune, though head coach Dean Evason refused to get into specifics.
Alex Goligoski will enter the lineup for the Wild, but a decision like this will certainly raise eyebrows around the league. Dumba’s name has entered the rumor mill lately (if it ever left), as he approaches the end of his contract with Minnesota.
Now 28, Dumba has averaged more than 21 minutes a night this season, his lowest total since 2016-17. The right-shot defenseman is in the final season of a five-year, $30MM contract that was signed by Minnesota’s former management group, and holds a 10-team no-trade clause. Reports have emerged recently explaining that while general manager Bill Guerin will listen, he’s focused on winning this season and won’t be selling Dumba off to the highest bidder unless there is a return that is going to help his team.
That’s a hard trade to make at the deadline, as contenders try to load up by handing off draft picks and futures. But a scratch right now, with no obvious reason, will certainly draw questions about his trade availability. The Wild may be protecting an asset as they head into Carolina to take on the Hurricanes. Even if it is a legitimate scratch for performance, it could mean that Minnesota has decided that their future is one without Dumba in the lineup.
Minnesota is a team to watch in the coming days and weeks. The team is now 6-2-2 in their last ten and has climbed within striking distance of the Central Division crown.