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Dumba hopes career-best season helps case to stay in Minnesota

After shouldering increased responsibility, pending restricted free agent sees himself remaining with Wild

by Kayleigh Jackson /

ST. PAUL -- It's safe to say it's been a pretty good year for Matt Dumba. 

As one of only four Wild players to suit up for all 82 regular-season games -- as well as all five playoff games -- the defenseman shouldered a newfound responsibility. Dumba spent much of the year in the spotlight, especially as the injury bug bit his fellow blueliners hard and often.

The 23-year-old set career highs in goals (14), assists (36), points (50), game-winning goals (4) and overtime goals (2). He also tied his career best with a plus-15 rating and added12 power-play points. His 50 points were good for 19th-best among NHL defensemen.

It's not a bad stat line, and it certainly doesn't hurt his chances as contract negotiations loom for the restricted free agent. Ideally, he said Monday, he isn't going anywhere. 

"I love it here in Minnesota," Dumba said. "People are great, teammates are awesome, built a lot of good friendships here. I see [a contract] happening."

Video: Matt Dumba talks offseason

With Ryan Suter's season cut short due to a broken ankle, Dumba played about 26 minutes per game during the Wild's final four regular-season outings and First-Round playoff series against Winnipeg.

"He's been awesome and it's not surprising, he's been incredible all year," Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk said of Dumba earlier in the playoffs. "It's been fun to see, he's a friend of mine, and to see him really start to understand and play the way he's gonna play for the rest of his career, to be one of the best defensemen in the League, and you can see that developing this year." 

For now, though, Dumba is getting some well-deserved rest. 

"You don't really know what to do with your days," Dumba said of the sudden transition from the playoff sprint to the offseason. "It's just getting back into the routine, I guess, of summer and training … right now, I'm just not really thinking too much about hockey or anything, just taking it easy." 

He's also recovering from the grind of a long and productive season. Dumba said he's "a little banged up, but nothing too crazy." None of the Regina, Seskatchewan native's minor injuries will require surgery.

For now, impending free agents could find themselves in a bit of a stasis until a new general manager comes on board. Dumba, among others, hasn't played under a GM other than Chuck Fletcher; Dumba called Monday's announcement that Wild owner Craig Leipold wouldn't renew Fletcher's contract "kind of shocking." 

But even after his career year, he knows there's more to do, and more room for this team to grow -- himself included. 

"Getting to the playoffs is a big feat, yeah, but not getting past the first round in a handful of years, it isn't good enough," Dumba said. "As players, coaches, everyone in this organization, we want to go further and lately that hasn't been the case, so I guess things need to change. And I think that's on all of us to kind of build that culture and do whatever it takes to get over the hump."

Video: WPG@MIN, Gm3: Dumba wires wrister past Hellebuyck


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