Whenever the 2020-21 NHL season gets going, it will officially mark the beginning of a new era between the posts for the Minnesota Wild.
Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota's top goaltender for the past five years and one of the sagest acquisitions in the NHL over the past decade, was flipped to the San Jose Sharks, the second of two deals consummated between the clubs on Monday.
It marks the end of a remarkable 5 1/2 year run with the Wild, one that ended on a tough note for Dubnyk, but also one that provided the club with elite goaltending for much of that time period.
Minnesota also shipped out forward Ryan Donato earlier in the day. In return for Dubnyk and Donato, as well as a seventh-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, the Wild gained a third-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft (originally belonging to Pittsburgh) and a fifth rounder in the 2022 draft.
In addition to the trades, the Wild re-signed forward Nico Sturm and defenseman Carson Soucy to two and three-year contracts, respectively, during an active first day of what promises to be an active week. The NHL Draft begins Tuesday night and concludes Wednesday, while the start of NHL free agency kicks off on Friday morning.
"It is part of the change that is going on here. We need to go in a different direction," said Wild General Manager Bill Guerin. "Devan and I had some very good, open conversations in the last little while. In the end, I just think this is best for the Minnesota Wild."
Guerin indicated he had some similar chats with Donato, who heads to his third NHL team after spending about a year and a half with both the Wild, and the Boston Bruins, who selected him in the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft.
"Part of that was discussing fit, and I've been through it myself as a player and sometimes you have to go from one spot to another, maybe a few times, just to find the right fit.," said Guerin, who played for eight teams over the course of his NHL career that spanned more than 1,200 games. "Ryan's a good young player. And we had a hard time getting Ryan in and putting him in the positions that he needed to be in. And I think he's going to get that opportunity in San Jose."
When Dubnyk came to Minnesota in a trade from the Arizona Coyotes in January of 2015, he boarded a ship that was sinking quickly. Injuries and ineffectiveness had rendered the Wild helpless, and Minnesota appeared set to miss the postseason.
But Dubnyk started 38 consecutive games over the final half of the season, posting a 1.78 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage during that stretch, helping guide Minnesota into the second-round of the playoffs. He won the Bill Masterton Award that season, was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender and finished fourth in voting for the Hart Trophy as League MVP.
Just a year removed from a disasterous 2013-14 season in which he played for three different franchises and with his career in jeopardy, Dubnyk signed a five-year contract extension with the Wild, cementing himself as one of the top goaltenders in the League.
"That was a good run for them and a good run for their team. Something that resurrected Devan's career and he got the team on the right track," Guerin said. "He had some good years here and he was a good player for this organization for a long time."
Over the past five years, Dubnyk ranks among the NHL's leaders in nearly every major category, including wins, saves, save percentage and goals-against average, but his final two years with the Wild have proven more challenging.
Dubnyk wen 12-15-2 last season with a 3.35 goals-against average and an .890 save percentage, his toughest campaign since arriving in Minnesota. He also dealt with personal family issues away from the rink, with his usual class of course ... but it was circumstances that didn't make things on the ice any easier.
A fresh start in San Jose could be exactly what the 34-year-old needs.
"Devan's a great guy. He's a good goalie. He's got a great family. They've contributed a lot here on and off the ice, and I know they're going to have success in San Jose, and we wish them all the best," Guerin said.
Video: Wild GM Bill Guerin discusses trades to San Jose
In terms of what's next, the Wild has flexibility and options.
Alex Stalock, who has two years remaining on a three-year contract he signed a year and a half ago, played well down the stretch last season and started all four of Minnesota's games during its return to play in the Edmonton bubble.
Kaapo Kahkonen, the reigning AHL Goaltender of the Year, is potentially knocking on the door as well after getting a taste of the NHL for a brief stint in 2019-20. Guerin said Kahkonen has earned a longer look next season.
"He definitely needs to get in more games so he's not an unknown entity. We know what we'll be getting. That's our job is try to mix him in every once in awhile," Guerin said. "He had a great year in the American Hockey League, and we'll see how this year shakes out but we'll have to get him more games."
Mat Robson finished his first professional season in the AHL last season and Hunter Jones, a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, remains a potential answer sometime down the road.
There is also strength in numbers in the goalie market, both via trade and free agency, so expect Guerin to remain busy over the next few days as he continues to mine for talent.
One thing is certain: no matter what happens to who shows up when the season starts, Guerin wants plenty of healthy competition.
"That's the business that we're in, and you have to be prepared coming into camp, and you have to try to win your spot, and that's just the way this life is," Guerin said. "It's constant competition, and no matter who you are, somebody's gunning for your job, so we're open."