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Should the Edmonton Oilers consider making a trade for Matt Dumba?

Drafted in 2012 by the Minnesota Wild, Matt Dumba came into the league as an explosive, dynamic player, equally equipped to lay out opponents with body contact or lay into a big slap shot. Not the biggest player, at 6’0” Dumba more than made up for his size with a take-no-prisoners attitude.

For the past seven seasons, Dumba has held a top four spot on the Wild blueline, playing on both special teams. He has some passing skills, but is effective as a rusher in transition as well. Even in last year’s playoffs, Dumba was shining, effective in his role as the minutes leader for the Wild. This, in part, was due to his top billing on the power play, a position he no longer occupies with the ascension of Calen Addison. This is the biggest reason for Dumba’s recent lack of production and decrease in minutes.

He is making up for the icetime hit by continuing to play on the top pair with Jonas Brodin, as well as his strong performance on the second unit of the penalty kill. Though his teammates Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin are two of the best defenders in the league, a large part of Minnesota’s defensive consistency, it is safe to say that Dumba brings a more well-rounded skill set.

Dumba’s relationship with the Wild

Recently scratched for poor play, there is a fervour enveloping the circumstances surrounding Dumba. He’s been logging huge minutes in a key role, and the Wild are having a strong season, yet there is some concern. Turning 29 years old this summer, he will be an unrestricted free agent which puts both player and team at a crossroads. Dumba is still an effective player, and a rare right shot at that, with a reputation of strong play. That alone might earn him a huge pay day this summer, something that the Wild likely won’t stomach due to his declining role.

Without being the power play quarterback, Dumba’s reputation as an offensive option will take a hit, and some Wild fans suggesting his shot is diminished might purely be a function of such (his shooting percentage remains stable, for what it’s worth). Down from 23 minutes a game last season to 21 minutes a game this season, any extension in Minnesota might come at a reduced cap hit. On the open market, it might be hard to imagine that Dumba won’t get an offer in the neighbourhood of his $6M cap hit.

We can only speculate, but as a lifelong member of the Wild and a strong leader in the community, it is quite possible that Dumba finds a way to stay in Minnesota, perhaps turning away more money in other places.

Until then, the Wild are keen to be at their best, firmly in a playoff spot, living up to their perennially substantial expectations as a team. Though Dumba is at a reduced role, he is still a massively important part of the team. Even in hypothetical trade conversations, Wild GM Bill Guerin notes the need to get a defenceman as part of a return on Dumba.

Addison isn’t quite ready to take on Dumba’s spot at 5v5, though that time is drawing nearer. The Wild blueline is defined by its right side, Spurgeon, the shutdown defender, Dumba, the 5v5 minute munching Jack of all trades, and Addison, the sheltered offensive option.

There are certainly teams who would overpay for Dumba, either with dollars in the summer, or with assets at the deadline, but it does seem contradictory for the Wild to trade such an important part of their team in the middle of the playoff race. That being said, as evidenced by the Ryan Suter and Zach Parise buyouts, this regime in Minnesota is not afraid to be both bold and unconventional.

Would Dumba fit nicely into the Oilers’ lineup?

Plopping Dumba onto the Oilers roster as it currently stands is a bit of an exercise, especially as the right side is quite well spoken for. Cody Ceci is a necessary defensive presence, and has shown synergy with Darnell Nurse to an extent. Tyson Barrie is still the top power play option, though Evan Bouchard is pushing. Barrie and Brett Kulak are almost symbiotic, each playing some of their best hockey as a pair together, showing well in top four minutes.

Perhaps Dumba could make a nice partnership with Nurse, and they might appreciate a partner who is as multi-dimensional as they are. Both have some giveaway issues (although all defencemen give the puck away), but having an adept puck lover might lessen the load.

Even still, it is hard to imagine any of Ceci, Barrie, or Bouchard coming out of the lineup. Perhaps, this means, that one of the three would have to be part of the package to acquire Dumba. This would be costly for a rental, and unlikely to save either the Wild or the Oilers much against the cap.

Theoretically, Dumba would upgrade the right side a bit at 5v5, but would likely see his biggest improvement to the Oilers come from the penalty kill. In terms of both salary and acquisition cost, Dumba might be inefficient, if not too costly, for the Oilers to find worthwhile.

Another team that is linked to Dumba is the Ottawa Senators, who are well outside of a playoff spot at the moment. The Senators are desperate for an upgrade on the right side of their blueline, but based on their record it might be more prudent for them to outbid the Wild for Dumba’s services in free agency, should the Sens truly feel that Dumba is the piece they need.

Another team that might make sense, at least long term, is the Vancouver Canucks who have a desperate need on the blueline as well. Trading for a veteran UFA in season as a rebuilding team is unorthodox to say the least, but the Canucks are in quite the state of disarray. In this context, Dumba might serve as a salary to balance out a bigger acquisition from the Wild.

Of course, it is likely that we will see the NHL as a whole catch up to some other leagues, a three-way deal, or perhaps a re-flipping of Dumba with some retained salary could be possible, which might alter the equation one way or another. Despite the recent scratch it is still most likely that Dumba plays out the remainder of his contract with the Wild.

Gregory Babinski

twitter: @axiomsofice

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