Why the Winnipeg Jets should be interested in trading for Matt Dumba

Winnipeg Jets' Nikolaj Ehlers (27), of Denmark, gets the puck away from Minnesota Wild's Matt Dumba (24) during the third period of an NHL hockey game. (Hannah Foslien/AP)

WINNIPEG - From the outside, it looks like a simple game of connect-the-dots.

One team has a relative surplus, the other has an obvious need.

So what’s it going to take to bring the two sides together?

As general manager Bill Guerin made a couple of moves to put his personal stamp on the Minnesota Wild this week - signing defenceman Jonas Brodin to a seven-year, $42 million deal and trading popular centre Eric Staal to the Buffalo Sabres for Marcus Johansson to go along with his low-risk move for centre Nick Bjugstad last week - the rest of the hockey world is waiting for the next domino to fall.

With the Seattle Kraken NHL expansion draft set for 2021, it stands to reason the Wild would want to be proactive and perhaps move a D-man to have the ability to protect another couple of forwards.

History wasn’t quite as kind to the Wild in 2018, when the organization had a similarly tough decision under GM Chuck Fletcher.

Ryan Suter had no-movement protection and Jared Spurgeon wasn’t going anywhere, that left Brodin and Matt Dumba left to protect under the seven forwards, three defencemen and one goalie format.

In the end, Fletcher didn’t protect Dumba but worked out a side deal with the Vegas Golden Knights to ensure they would select centre Erik Haula.

The sweetener in that deal was that the Wild had to include winger Alex Tuch as part of the package.

With the benefit of hindsight, it was a high price to pay but it also reinforces how tough it can be to build a strong defence corps - which is why you can understand why Fletcher made the move.

Had he not made the side deal, the Golden Knights would have likely selected Dumba and losing a first-round pick who was already a top-four blue-liner didn’t make much sense either.

Which brings us back to the present, where Guerin has shown that he’s open for business but he’s not going to panic and ship Dumba out to market for pennies on the dollar either.

The caveat being that all of Suter, Spurgeon and Brodin have no-movement protection this time around and are under contract for at least five more seasons.

So, once again, when you connect the dots the answer seems obvious - which has led to multiple teams calling Guerin about Dumba’s potential availability.

“Matt’s a heck of a player. Who wouldn’t want Matt Dumba?” Guerin said during a Wednesday night availability after the trade. “But we have him right now, and we’re happy with that. We’ll leave it at that.”

One of those teams with interest is the Winnipeg Jets. And for good reason.

The priority for the off-season is to rebuild the defence corps and when a young, but also experienced player could be on the market, doing your due diligence is the right move for Kevin Cheveldayoff.

Dumba is coming off an up-and-down season, one that saw him chip in six goals and 24 points in 69 games but it’s important to remember he was returning from a serious pectoral injury (from a fight with Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk) that derailed an outstanding start to 2018-19.

At the time of the injury, Dumba led all defencemen in goals (with 12) and was just two shy of his career-high (2017-18).

Dumba turned 26 in July, is a right-handed shooting defenceman and already has a 50-point season on his resume - which came in 2017-18.

The seventh overall pick in 2012 followed that up with 22 points in 32 games before suffering the season-ending injury.

He’s a fixture on the first power play and can unleash a big shot from the top.

He’s a player who likes to get involved physically, but he’s also mobile.

Did I mention Dumba provides cost certainty?

He’s under contract at $6 million for three more seasons.

That’s a significant salary, but it’s a manageable one if Dumba gets back to the level he was playing at recently.

During the five-game opening-round series against the Jets in 2018, Dumba was arguably the best player for the Wild, averaging nearly 27 minutes per game.

For a team looking for a potential partner for Josh Morrissey on the top pairing, Dumba is another guy who fits the criteria.

Dumba would bring with him an abundance of big-game experience, as a guy who suited up for Team Canada at both the World Junior Hockey Championship (2014) and the 2016 World Championship and made a run to the Western Hockey League final with the Portland Winterhawks in 2014.

He’s a well-liked teammate who showed plenty of courage by delivering a powerful anti-racism message prior to the NHL restart in Edmonton last month and is showing leadership as a key member of the hockey diversity alliance.

So what’s it going to take for the Jets and Wild to find some common ground?

That’s where this dance gets interesting.

If - and it remains a big if - Guerin is going to make a deal, he’s trying to make the move based on Dumba playing at his optimal level.

Top-four blue-liners that can average 25-plus minutes of ice times aren’t readily available.

Nor are the Wild in a rush to get a trade done, though that doesn’t mean one won’t be made - as Guerin hinted at on Wednesday.

“Everybody is still trying to see what everybody's up to and gather information,” Guerin told reporters. “I don’t promise anybody anything. I know the business well enough from the player side, and I wouldn’t want to make an empty promise. We’ll try to improve our team as much as we can when we can

“We’re happy with the D corps. Right now, if I were to move Matt, I don’t have to rush. We can play all year with him. We like Matt Dumba. He’s a heck of a player. He’s a great kid. We’re very happy with him, and we think our top-four will go up against anybody. I’m confident in that.”

Guerin is probably asking for someone like Nikolaj Ehlers (which is probably a non-starter), while the Jets would probably prefer a package that revolves around Jack Roslovic and another piece or two.

Whether the two sides can meet in the middle or another suitor provides a better offer remains to be seen.

But it’s another not-so-gentle reminder that the Stanley Cup Final is just around the corner and so is a busy and potentially chaotic off-season that could feature an abundance of player movement and transactions.

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