The Athletic dropped their NHL Trade Board 2.0 on Wednesday. Dealing with the cap crunch of all cap crunches, it will be tough for the Minnesota Wild to be movers at the deadline. Pat Maroon is the only Wild player on the list, and Minnesota will presumably keep him as long as they are in the playoff hunt.
As for buying, their biggest need is on the blue line, but their cap situation makes adding folks difficult. They have $40,006 in projected cap space, per CapFriendly, which means any deal would likely have to be dollar-in, dollar-out. In that case, the only options on the board are the Philadelphia Flyers' Nick Seeler (with a $775K cap hit) and 22-year-old Edmonton Oilers defenseman Philip Broberg ($863K cap hit and a pending RFA).
And yet... there's the Arizona Coyotes (and former Wild) defenseman Matt Dumba on the trade board, and you've gotta think the Wild are missing the longtime staple of their blueline. Yes, Brock Faber is playing magnificent hockey. Sure, Jared Spurgeon is playing well when he's been healthy. Even Zach Bogosian is doing reasonably well despite being stretched into a top-four role with Spurgeon out of the lineup.
Minnesota can feel their former alternate captain's absence, though. They've already moved to acquire a right-shot defenseman in Bogosian this season and brought in Maroon, a veteran voice, in the offseason. That hasn't stopped the Wild from dropping from a 103-point season to an 82-point pace 30 games into the season.
Dumba's departure is almost definitely not responsible for the tumble in the standings, but the Wild still miss him. But do they miss him enough to bring him back? That's a tough order.
There are several roadblocks in the way. The first is that Dumba makes $3.9 million this season. Suppose the Wild want to acquire him. They'd not only have to have the Coyotes retain half his salary, but Minnesota would have to route Dumba through a third team to launder another quarter of his salary. The Wild would not only have to pay a third team an asset to launder Dumba, but that's a tough maneuver to execute without a dedicated 'cap guy' in the front office.
Then Minnesota would have to wonder whether it's worth buying a rental player -- Dumba hits the free-agent market again next summer -- just to buoy a .500 team. A minor trade for Bogosian? Fine. But a three-way undertaking where the Wild will have to pony up? That's a different story.
On the other hand, the Wild have a strong core of players that includes Kirill Kaprizov, Joel Eriksson Ek, Matt Boldy, Marco Rossi, and Faber, even after their recent injuries. All these players are 26 and under. Wasting a prime season from all of them seems like a disaster. At least, the Wild have indicated that they think that's the case. They've shaken up their team and fired their coach to make the postseason.
It's fair to ask: Why Dumba? Minnesota's bigger need is probably on the left side of the defense, and Dumba's not having an incredibly successful season. He has two goals and five points in 30 games for the Coyotes. His Standings Points Above Replacement (SPAR) is hovering around 0.0, making him exactly replacement level.
We've already mentioned the leadership qualities that Dumba brings to the equation, but there is also an on-ice component to consider. Dumba might be just replacement-level, but there's something to be said about someone who can give you 20 minutes a night without damaging his team. It's like an innings-eating pitcher in baseball. The Wild certainly have a dearth of that kind of player.
Minnesota has only four defensemen with a positive SPAR: Faber, Spurgeon, Brodin, and Bogosian. Looking at the rest of the squad, it's pretty grizzly.
Add that up and you have a -2.8 SPAR, meaning the bottom of their lineup has cost them about three points this year. Coincidentally, with three more points in the standings, they'd have entered Wednesday one point behind Arizona for a playoff spot. Instead, they're four back.
Despite the need for stability on the left side of the defense, the Wild could also use a solid option on their right. Jared Spurgeon has twice been injured this season. As the team's situation on defense has worsened, Faber has to take on a greater workload.
In Faber's last four games, he's played 30-plus minutes in three of them, with a fourth game over 28 minutes. He's the only player to have such a streak this season. And last season. It hasn't been done since the 2021-22 season, when Seth Jones had such a stretch from April 1 through 10, 2022, per Stathead.
Give Faber all the credit in the world for taking Ryan Suter-esque minutes and thriving. But Faber isn't taking on these minutes simply because he can. It's because the Wild have no palatable option but to play Faber as much as possible. The team can't be a Spurgeon injury away from playing Faber a half-hour a night; it's simply not sustainable.
Does that mean we should keep our eyes on the Dumba situation? It seems too costly and complicated to pull off, but Bill Guerin and the Wild front office love familiarity. The Wild brought back Marcus Johansson last season, and he did a lot less for the franchise than Dumba. Their needs might be elsewhere in the long run. But right now, they're definitely feeling the absence of their old friend. It makes enough sense that we can never say never.
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