It's not a rosy picture right now in the "State of Hockey," but goalie Devan Dubnyk's improvement this season suggests he can give the Minnesota Wild a much-needed lift in net.
With starter Darcy Kuemper (56 percent owned in Yahoo leagues) on injured reserve and veteran Niklas Backstrom (33 percent owned) struggling, the Wild acquired Dubnyk on Wednesday in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes. Since Nov. 22, Kuemper's season has gone off the rails with a 4-7-1 record and four or more goals allowed in six of his 13 appearances. Backstrom has started the past four games for Minnesota with Kuemper out, allowing 16 goals.
Entering 2014-15, Dubnyk (20 percent owned) didn't have a winning record in any of his five NHL seasons. The statistical highlight of his career was a .920 save percentage in 38 outings during the shortened season of 2012-13. But a few months working with Coyotes goalie coach Sean Burke has done wonders for his stock, with this trade being primary evidence.
Dubnyk is one of nine goalies with a winning record (9-5-2) and an even-strength save percentage of .930 or better (.932) among goalies with more than 15 appearances this season. And it's not as if Dubnyk has been suiting up for a Stanley Cup Playoff contender. The Coyotes have the second-fewest points in the Western Conference and have seen their starter Mike Smith win two fewer games than Dubnyk despite eight more appearances. Smith's goals-against average (3.52) and save percentage (.885) have been a fantasy owner's worst nightmare for a goalie that was taken on average in the fifth round of Yahoo drafts.
Now, we'll see what Dubnyk is all about as he joins a team that is reeling in the standings, most recently losing 7-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.
Considering Dubnyk's struggles this season have come with his opponents on the power play (.860 SV%), it's promising from a fantasy standpoint that Minnesota's penalty kill conversion rate (84.2 percent) ranks 8th in the NHL.
The goalie market on the fantasy waiver wire is thin these days, so fantasy owners in deep leagues have no choice but to add Dubnyk immediately. In the short term, he'll have every opportunity to earn more starts than Backstrom. Once Kuemper returns, it could be an open competition depending on how well each performs.
Dubnyk is expected to start Thursday on the road against the Buffalo Sabres.