Matt Dumba is in his 10th season with the Minnesota Wild, and it’s looking increasingly more like his final one. Even with the “A” on his chest, it will be difficult for Minnesota to keep Dumba on the roster, given their current salary cap issues. He is making $6 million this year and will become an unrestricted free agent after this season. As much as this comes to the delight of some Wild fans, it may not be as easy to replace him as some think.
Dumba is a favorite in the locker room. He has earned the respect of his teammates and coaches alike with his passion, hard work, and ability to keep the team loose. Dumba is also one of the biggest pranksters on the team. Just ask Joel Eriksson Ek and Brandon Duhaime. Dumba has targeted both of their vehicles, first covering Eriksson Ek’s in post-it notes, then filling Duhaime’s with packing peanuts.
He doesn’t just pick on his teammates, either. When he first came into the league, he wore jersey No. 55. It doesn’t seem like much on the ice, but looking at his locker nameplate, it spelled “Dumba55” (dumbass). It’s obvious he keeps the mood light, even when he is the butt of the joke.
While Dumba is a jokester, his teammates respect him because he respects the game and does the right things. When he wanted to change his number to 24, he contacted the late Derek Boogaard‘s family to make sure they were okay with him wearing the enforcer’s old number. The Boogaard family gave him their blessing. Dumba is a character guy, and that also goes beyond the ice.
In the summer of 2020, Dumba teamed with other NHL players to create Hockey Diversity Alliance, an organization committed to eradicating systemic racism and intolerance in hockey. The group includes Nazem Kadri, Evander Kane, former Wild player Chris Stewart, among others. His community work doesn’t end there. In July 2020, Dumba announced he would contribute $100,000 to Rebuild Minnesota, a charity that helped rebuild Lake Street after civil unrest in Minneapolis. These efforts came a year after winning the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for the 2019-20 season. The trophy is awarded annually to the NHL player who shows leadership on and off the ice and makes humanitarian efforts in the community.
But Dumba’s contributions to the community aren’t what keep him on the active roster. He’s the ultimate team player. He can get the team fired up with his physical play and isn’t afraid to play hard against star players, as evidenced by this hit on Chicago Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane.
He has 767 hits in 559 NHL games. Dumba is only 183 pounds, so the physicality takes its toll, but he’s been willing to take it. Dumba hasn’t played 82 games in a season since 2018-19, when he had had 14 goals and 50 points. He has yet to reach 30 points since then, although he has stepped into more of a defensive role after Guerin bought out the remainder of Ryan Suter’s contract.
Dumba has done a fantastic job filling the leadership role left open after Suter’s departure. Suter and winger Zach Parise were the alternate captains before the Wild bought out both contracts in the 2021 offseason, forcing the coaching staff to find new veteran leadership. Ultimately, the Wild awarded the “As” to Dumba and forward Marcus Foligno.
With Dumba seemingly on the way out of Minnesota, the Wild may have to replace an alternate captain for the second time in four years. There are plenty of candidates on the current roster, like center Eriksson Ek or Dumba’s current defensive partner Jonas Brodin. Replacing leadership isn’t the only thing the Wild would have to consider.
This season, Dumba is averaging over 21 minutes of ice time. Rookie Calen Addison could potentially eat some minutes left behind, but he has only played 57 NHL games. The Wild are also eagerly waiting for the NHL debut of current Minnesota Gopher captain Brock Faber, a defenseman they acquired by trading Kevin Fiala to the Los Angeles Kings. Faber is potentially a top-pairing D-man but can he hit the ground running straight out of college?
It is also worth mentioning that the Wild are currently a playoff team. Dumba has 13 points in 43 playoff games, and Guerin could want him around for the upcoming postseason. Dumba can elevate the players around him with his extroverted personality. He is loud, passionate, and gives his all every night. Like him or not, Dumba is a crucial part of this team, and while he isn’t the type of guy who will score a Game 7 overtime winner, he will be the first player to jump on the pile afterward. As much as some fans want him out, the Wild will struggle to replace the effort Dumba brings every game.