Here’s the thing. The Leafs blueline, it’s not very good. In fact it’s pretty bad. If the Leafs get Rielly and Muzzin back, we’re a bit happier, but if you ask anyone what the biggest flaw on the team is they are probably answering defense, or possibly William Nylander, assuming you’ve asked your terrible uncle.
According to TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger, Wild general manager Bill Guerin may be willing to part with a significant piece on his blueline before Feb. 24.
“I’m told that Bill Guerin is open for business and part of the trade bait list could include veteran defenceman Mathew Dumba,” Dreger said on Thursday’s edition of Insider Trading.
Dumba, 25, has three goals and 10 points in 47 games this season while averaging 22:44 of ice time per game. He carries a $6 million cap hit through the 2022-23 season on the five-year deal he signed with the Wild in 2018.
Pardon me while I swoon for a minute, regain my composure and start addressing why Matt Dumba checks a lot of the boxes for the Leafs from an eye test perspective. Then I’ll force you to look at some numbers that may dump a modest amount of cold water on that eye test.
Well, to start with he shoots right, and that checks a big box for a lot of people. He’s not huge, but has decent size, but plays like he’s a lot bigger (read: throws awesome open ice hits and then will punch people in the face if they object to that.) He’s a very strong skater, he’s defensively minded enough that he can play on the penalty kill, but capable enough to be on the power play as well. He’d be an excellent all situation compliment to any one of Rielly, Muzzin, or Dermott, but I can’t help but think a Muzzin/Dumba pairing would be a beautiful 30 minute a night in the playoffs set up that would warm my heart immensely.
It’s safe to say I’m smitten with Dumba, a talented defenseman who is only going to get better once he steps outside the Wild organization.
So a lot of this is the eye test revisited, and what we’re seeing is that Dumba has primarily been used as a second pairing defenseman in Minnesota, his offense has been declining as the team declines, and he’s not afraid to hit or block shots, and up until this season he was pretty good at avoiding penalties.
|CF%||CF% Rel||CA/60||CA/60 Rel||HDCF%||xG%||xG% Rel||xGA/60||xGA/60 Rel|
Here’s where it gets interesting and some cold water on Dumba is applied. Nothing about Dumba truly screams I’m going to fix the Leafs. A lot of those numbers mirror what we are already seeing from Leafs defenders, but with the obvious difference being that Dumba’s numbers are weighted down by being on a worse team.
What would it cost to get Dumba?
Well we’re probably starting with the standard Leafs offering of Johnsson, Kapanen, or Kerfoot and going from there. I can’t imagine a one for one deal would be in the cards unless the Wild are looking to shed some salary, in which case Toronto would have to make a separate deal to shed some salary of their own.
With no 2020 1st round pick to offer up, the Leafs are a bit behind the eight ball when it comes to dealing with sellers that are wanting to rebuild, but the Leafs still have some interesting prospect assets that could close the gap. I’d assume anyone short of Sandin and Robertson would be considered if the Leafs can improve their blueline significantly.
There is the potential that the Wild are falling out of love with Dumba, both because they’ve made him available and if they share the similar assessment of his year to what Hockey Wilderness recently wrote about Dumba in their midseason report card:
HW Staff Grade: D
A torn pectoral cut short Dumba’s breakout season in 2018-2019, where he had led the league in goals by a defenseman at that time with 12. After a full offseason of recovery, many, including Dumba himself, had high expectations this season. Unfortunately, it has been a pretty awful start to the season for Dumba. He currently only has three goals on the season — the last of which came on November 12 — and his defensive play has been subpar. While the last few games before the halfway point were much better for Dumba, he just hasn’t looked like himself at all.
If this is the case there might never be a better time to buy low on a player that has a lot of potential to turn his game around in a new setting.
Why it makes sense
The Leafs presently have Morgan Rielly, Justin Holl, and Martin Marincin as their returning defensemen next season. They will obviously figure out something with Travis Dermott, their restricted free agent, and there is a strong possibility of both Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren being full time Leafs next season as well, but outside of Rielly there isn’t much in the way of bona fide top four defensemen, just some really great question marks.
There is also the issue of that Muzzin isn’t signed they are lacking in physicality and “defensive defensemen” and that’s a gap that Matt Dumba can partially help fill. It is likely that Dumba isn’t as bad as this year has been for him, and his bad year is still on par with what the Leafs top four is doing every night anyway.
Why it doesn’t make sense
Six million dollars a year is a lot to spend on a potential question mark. Do you want to give up a ton of assets for a question mark with term?
I’d argue this is a worthwhile risk, but I don’t have much to lose except internet reputation, which is already shoddy at best.
Right now all we can do is throw names out there and see what sticks, and to me personally, Matt Dumba is one of the most interesting numbers to surface as far as defense options are concerned. There might be a bit of chasing upside, and my thinking my still be anchored to his draft position, I’ve always liked Dumba and think that he’s a personality fit for the Leafs as well.