Let’s Slow Down On The Devan Dubnyk Contract Speculation

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With the Ink on his trade clause barely dry, Minnesota Wild fans are already talking about extending Devan Dubnyk, but it’s just not that simple.

Before the Wild acquired Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota’s goaltending was bad. Really bad, you guys. Niklas Backstrom was performing like a 36-year-old goaltender on his last legs. Darcy Kuemper, who started out the season with back-to-back shutouts, was neurological train wreck. As the season looked to be in disrepair, General Manager Chuck Fletcher reached out to Arizona and acquired Dubnyk for a 3rd round pick in the loaded 2015 NHL entry draft. Dubnyk’s arrival in Minnesota was met with mixed reaction, by and large due to how long the Wild waited before making a move. Dubnyk is one of 26 pending unrestricted free agent goaltenders this offseason; a list that includes Cam Talbot, Antti Niemi, Viktor Fasth, Jhonas Enroth, and Karri Ramo. All of those names fit the bill as a starting goaltender, but Dubnyk is already here. Though we’ve seen some great goaltending, Dubnyk’s past may be a little more telling than the brief view we’ve had.

Dissecting Dubnyk

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan and raised in Calgary, Alberta; 28-year-old Dubnyk played minor hockey in the WHL with the Kamloops Blazers. Compiling a 83-87-14 record with a 2.70 GAA and a .911 save percentage through parts of 5 seasons in the rugged Western Hockey League, Dubnyk was drafted in the 1st round, 14th overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2004. Dubnyk was the second goalie taken after Al Montoya who went 6th overall. After one season in the East Coast Hockey League, Dubnyk became the starting goaltender for the Oiler’s AHL affiliate until earning his first NHL start with the Oilers during the 2009-2010 season. Dubnyk played as both a starter and a back-up with the Oilers until January 14th, 2014 when he was traded to the Nashville Predators and then to the Montreal Canadiens in March of 2014. Dubnyk signed his current one-year deal with the Arizona Coyotes On July 1st, 2015 with a chance to usurp Mike Smith for the starting job.

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Here’s the thing, Dubnyk has never played more than 47 games in a season. At 28, we still aren’t quite sure what his ceiling is for games played in a season. In the table below, you can look at his stats from previous seasons. To make it easy, I excluded his rookie season and his time in Nashville, where he only played in two games

[table id=26 /]

As you can see, Dubnyk has hovered around a career save percentage of .911, which is right around league average, especially behind an Edmonton team that simply hasn’t played that well. Kuemper’s career save percentage is .910.

Since arriving in St. Paul, Dubnyk has gone 6-1-0 over 8 starts with the Wild. He was not the goaltender of record in the Wild’s 5-4 Shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings. His 1.48 GAA and .945 save percentage since joining the Wild is impressive, but on par with league leading goaltenders over that stretch. Consider this: of the 31 goaltenders that played at least 200 all-situation minutes since Dubnyk joined the Wild on 01/15/15, Dubnyk’s unadjusted save percentage of 0.942 ranks 4th, just behind Cory Schneider, who has played three fewer games in that stretch. That number puts him above some elite company, such as Henrik Lundqvist and Johnathan Quick. Niemi ranks 22nd; but that doesn’t make Dubnyk better over the course of his career. He’s playing in front of a good team that limits shots on goal.

I get it guys, there’s a lot to be excited about with Dubnyk in the crease, but before we start throwing wads of hypothetical money his way, we need to see more. 8 games is a snapshot, a Polaroid picture of a season that will completely change before the photo is developed. If you feel like 8 games is a reasonable snapshot of a season, consider this: By the Wild’s 8th game this season, they were 5-3-0, Darcy Kuemper had 3 shutouts, and the Wild was outscoring its opponents by a combined score of 27-12. Anything can happen in 8 games, so we need to see more before we spend Craig Leipold’s money for him.

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  • At the end of this season, Josh Harding’s contract expires, but that still leaves Kuemper’s $1.25 million cap hit and Backstrom’s $3.416 million cap hit. Kuemper’s not going anywhere, and he shouldn’t. Kuemper still stands as the heir to Minnesota’s crease until he proves otherwise, which he hasn’t yet. Backstrom can be bought out of his contract at the end of the season provided he is not on IR; however, the Wild would be on the hook for his full salary because he signed his extension after he turned 35. He’s also ineligible for a compliance buyout under the new collective bargaining agreement and has a full no-trade no-movement clause. None of that makes the goaltending situation any easier, and the off-season doesn’t officially begin until July 1st, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens.