SUNRISE, FLA. – This will be a week to remember for Devan Dubnyk.
He won the Masterton Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey; was a Vezina Trophy finalist; finished top-four in Hart Trophy voting, and was named a second-team All-Star. On Saturday, the Wild goalie was rewarded for one heck of a season with a six-year, $26 million contract.
“It’s been pretty surreal,” Dubnyk said by phone from his home in Kelowna, British Columbia. “I can’t wait to get back around the guys. Now I’ve got to sit around and wait. All this excitement in one week, and I’ve still got three months to go.”
Dubnyk, 29, went 36-14-4 in 58 games last season between Arizona and the Wild. He ranked second in the NHL with both a 2.07 goals-against average and .929 save percentage, tied for fourth with six shutouts and tied for sixth in wins. The 6-foot-6, 210-pound Regina, Saskatchewan-born, Calgary-raised Dubnyk set single-season career highs in goals-against average, save percentage, wins, shutouts, minutes, assists (two), shots faced (1,625) and saves (1,510).
After a red-eye flight following a Jan. 14 trade, Dubnyk started 38 consecutive games, going 27-9-2 with a 1.78 goals-against average, .936 save percentage and five shutouts. In 19 road starts, he went 15-2-1. He helped take the Wild from eight points out of a playoff spot to a third straight berth.
While the contract may seem risky for only a half-season’s work, Dubnyk said: “It was nothing crazy, nothing extravagant. I’m a pretty simple goalie the way I play. The way we played as a group, there weren’t any miracles happening out there. We were playing the right way and for myself it was just being simple and strong and keeping it tight. I wasn’t doing back flips out there and doing stuff that I’m not capable of continuing to do.
“I’m only 29 years old. I’m fully planning on continuing to get better as I go here.”
GM Chuck Fletcher said Dubnyk is “entering the prime of his career. He’s had some good seasons in Edmonton and had a great season this year. We’re not asking him to duplicate what he did this year every year. Maybe that’s not realistic, but we believe he can be a good goaltender in this league. He’s right at the stage of his career where he’s ready to take off.”
The question is what this means for Darcy Kuemper, the Wild’s now former “Goalie of the Future.” He’s 25 and helped lead the Wild into the playoffs two years ago but struggled last season. Fletcher said he wants Dubnyk and Kuemper to be a “1-2 punch for several years,” but it seems more likely that Fletcher will eventually use Kuemper as a bargaining chip.
He makes only $1.25 million, and the Wild needs a backup, so it may make sense to wait to trade him next summer. However, with a team such as San Jose looking for a goalie, maybe Fletcher tries to shop him now. In the meantime, Dubnyk is ecstatic.
“The most exciting thing for me is knowing I get to be part of a really good hockey team for a long time,” he said. “Getting a chance to play with that group of guys last year was the best experience for me.”