The Minnesota Wild have been making headlines for a couple weeks now. In the past week they’ve made one significant signing, two significant trades, and look to be on the cusp of making a few more deals as well.
Yesterday, the Wild traded their number one center, Eric Staal, to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for their second line center, Marcus Johannson. The trade was a bit odd to say the least, as the Wild appear to have traded away the vastly superior player who is signed to a cheaper contract. Staal is the older of the two by six years, but he’s been much better at hockey than Johannson has even in his senior years.
Just a few days before that, the Wild acquired center Nick Bjugstad from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a conditional seventh round pick, with the Penguins retaining half of Bjugstad’s salary.
And earlier in the week, defenseman Jonas Brodin was signed to a monster contract extension worth $6M per year for seven years.
This could have major implications for the Flames, because the next player who seems to be on the chopping block is defender Matt Dumba. It’s been floating around on several media outlets over the past couple days that the Flames are interested in Dumba and could be one of the frontrunners to acquire him from the Wild.
Dumba is a former seventh overall draft pick who has numerous ties to Calgary. He was born and raised in the city, played for the Edge School in grade school, and then went on to play his minor hockey for the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL. He’s a local kid.
What makes Dumba particularly interesting for the Flames because he is a right shooting defenseman with power play experience. It’s no secret the Flames have a massive deficit on the right side, and Dumba would fill the 1RHD role perfectly. Alongside Mark Giordano, the Flames would have a formidable blueline with Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson rounding out the top four.
He’d also be able to fill in for the likely departing Erik Gustafsson on the top power play unit, something the Flames would love to have in order to keep Mark Giordano’s minutes down as he ages. This was part of the reason for acquiring Gustafsson in the first place but with the added bonus of Dumba slotting naturally onto the right side at 5v5.
There are a plethora of reasons for why acquiring Dumba makes a ton of sense for the Flames. The question becomes: how do they make it happen? Paul Fenton is no longer manning the Minnesota ship, so this deal would have to make sense for both sides (although the Staal trade looks pretty bad).
On defense, the Wild are pretty solid. Jared Spurgeon ($7.575M AAV), Ryan Suter ($7.538M AAV), and Brodin ($6M AAV starting in 2021) are their three big names and likely those protected in the expansion draft. In goal, there have been reports they are looking to move Devan Dubnyk, but that’s not an avenue the Flames will want to down. They do seem to have a deficit down the middle.
After trading away Staal and with Mikko Koivu entering unrestricted free agency at 37 years old, the Wild have big questions at the center position. Bjugstad has played center but is probably better suited as a right winger, so really they’re center depth is Joel Eriksson-Ek who just had a 29 point season, Johansson who just had 30 points, Victor Rask with 13 points, and Koivu. On top of that, outside of Kevin Fiala and maybe Kirill Kaprizov depending on how he translates to the NHL, the Wild look like they’ll have a very hard time scoring goals next season.
What seems to make the most sense is for them to trade Dumba for a goal scoring centerman. Enter: Sean Monahan.
If that doesn’t describe what Monahan is as a player, I’m not sure what does. He’s the leading goal scorer of his draft class, one that includes Nathan MacKinnon. He’s good for 30 goals every year, can be a go-to option on the power play, wins faceoffs, and is a big body. He looks like the exact type of player the Wild would be looking to acquire.
On the Flames’ side, trading Monahan is probably not something they want to do unless it’s a sure thing. He’s been their top center for half a decade, he’s already ninth in all-time Flames goal scoring, and has worn an “A” for basically his whole career. Further, the Flames don’t have a ton of center depth behind Monahan, unless they believe Elias Lindholm can slot in as a full-time center.
Because of how hard it is to score goals in this league, and how valuable centers are on top of that, Monahan is a coveted asset. He’s signed to a very reasonable $6.375M AAV contract and is locked up for three more seasons. Dumba on the other hand, has the same term, but is a year older and earns $6M per year. The Flames are not trading from a position of strength so it would make sense for the Wild to add a sweetener to the trade to make it work. Whether this is a mid-round draft pick, a prospect, or both.
Looking at TWC’s POET (Player Offensive Evaluation Tool) we see that Monahan and Dumba are very similar offensive players relative to their positions. This tool looks at the past three seasons for each player with a 1-2-3 weighting system per year, favouring the most recent year.
Dumba is evaluated against all defenders and Monahan is evaluated against all forwards. Both come in at an overall score of around 1.1 standard deviations above average, but Dumba outperforms Monahan in all three key offensive categories. Most notably, Dumba’s possession numbers are significantly better, and that’s with Dumba receiving the fourth-worst offensive zone start precentage of any Wild player this past season.
In a perfect world, maybe the Flames can swing a deal with Bennett as the “center” going the other way. It is a stretch for sure, but with the right pieces it could work. Perhaps the Flames include a player like Derek Ryan in the deal, their first round pick, or both. Salary would definitely have to go both ways, but there might be enough to make it work for both sides.
Monahan is definitely the superior player compared to Bennett, but with a change of scenery and his playoff performance to build upon, Bennett may be a player the Wild view highly.
The return notwithstanding, Dumba would fit it well with the Flames. He’s known for being an offensive defenseman first, but pairing him with a reliable player like Giordano could help insulate Dumba enough for the Flames to come out ahead.
Losing Monahan would be tough, but perhaps with another bonafide top pairing defender on the right side, it opens the door for the Flames to trade away one of their many left handed defensemen to backfill what they lost with Monahan.
If it’s Bennett going the other way, that’s a deal the Flames can easily get behind. The Wild brought in two middle-six centers this week, why not another one? The Bennett deal is a harder sell though, and if the Flames are set on shaking up the core, Monahan makes a lot of sense.
Do you think a deal centered around exchanging Monahan for Dumba makes sense for the Flames? What would your ideal trade look like? Let us know in the comments or on social media.
Image courtesy: Sportsnet