FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Devan Dubnyk stepped behind the mic, exhaled and said, “Wow, what a year.”
That it was.
With the Wild eight points out of a playoff spot in mid-January, the goaltender that was run out of the league last season came to the rescue. He hopped on a red-eye, started the first of a franchise-record 38 consecutive games, saved the Wild’s season and on Wednesday capped a career resurrection by winning the Masterton Trophy.
The award is given annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. The Wild’s Josh Harding won the hardware in 2013.
During a touching speech, Dubnyk thanked his family for helping get him through the lowest of lows last season after playing for three teams, ending up in the minors and having to sign a one-year deal as Arizona’s backup.
“They were there for you when things were great and they were there for you just the same when things are awful,” Dubnyk said during a phone interview after the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas. “You realize that’s more important than playing hockey.”
It was quite a night for Dubnyk. He was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy (Best Goaltender), finishing third behind Carey Price and Pekka Rinne, and just missed being a finalist for the Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player to his team). He finished fourth.
He also was named a second-team All-Star after winning 36 games last year and going 27-9-2 with a 1.78 goals-against average, .936 save percentage and five shutouts with the Wild. Fifteen of his wins came on the road.
Dubnyk, 29, remains unsigned and can become a free agent next Wednesday. He is now free to talk to other teams about a contract, but he’s still confident his agent, Mike Liut, and Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher will strike a long-term contract. They’re expected to meet Thursday.
“We’re going to do everything we can to get something done,” Dubnyk said. “I don’t know if that’ll take a day or two days or three days, I don’t know. But I’m confident and definitely trust we’ll get something done.”
Once Dubnyk is re-signed or the Wild acquires another goaltender, Fletcher will decide if it’s possible to attempt to re-sign some of his pending free agents like Kyle Brodziak, Chris Stewart, Jordan Leopold, Nate Prosser and Ryan Carter.
“What I’ve told all the agents is our priority is to resolve the goaltending, and then we can get the abacus out and figure out what’s left over,” Fletcher said. “It’ll be simple math.”
Fletcher plans to talk with Stewart’s agent, Eustace King, this week. Leopold and Carter are two players hoping for calls. Fletcher figures Brodziak, who ranks seventh in Wild history with 446 games, will move on.
“I thought he had a really good season, particularly in the second half,” Fletcher said. “He was a very good and selfless teammate. [Coach] Mike [Yeo] trusted him in a lot of situations. He provided an awful lot of value for us.”
• Fletcher has meetings scheduled the next two days with the agents of unsigned Dubnyk, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula and Christian Folin and injured Niklas Backstrom, whom the Wild would like to find a way to unload this summer. As of now, he can’t be bought out of the last year of his contract because he is not yet cleared from offseason elbow surgery. His agent has permission to talk to other teams.
• The Wild will open next season Oct. 8 at Colorado and play its home opener two nights later against St. Louis. The rest of the Wild’s schedule will be announced at 9 a.m. Thursday.
• Wild players receiving award votes: Zach Parise finished 17th for the Selke Trophy and tied for 18th for the Hart Trophy, Ryan Suter finished ninth for the Norris Trophy, Jason Pominville finished sixth for the Lady Byng Trophy and Jonas Brodin tied for 18th for the Norris and was 13th for the Lady Byng. Yeo was 12th for the Jack Adams Award and Fletcher was eighth for GM of the Year.
• Leopold’s daughter, Jordyn, won the NHL’s Social Media Moment of the Year. It stemmed from Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen tweeting, “It isn’t always just about business,” accompanied by her letter asking for him to trade dad to his hometown Wild.