Facing yet another offseason in which his status with the Wild was bound to be speculated about, Matt Dumba said back in June that he would block out the rumors by going to the Bahamas and ditching his cellphone.
And he did.
"I wasn't lying," Dumba said. "My phone, the first month of the summer, was a paperweight."
Ahead of his getaway, the defenseman told General Manager Bill Guerin that he wanted to be with the Wild.
Fast forward to training camp and that's exactly where Dumba is, remaining on the team amid the Seattle expansion draft and a makeover to the blue line.
"It makes me feel good," Dumba said Friday as the Wild continued to practice before its first preseason game Saturday at St. Louis. "My name always gets in the mix. I made it through two expansion drafts, though. I'm thankful for the guys here, my teammates who believe in me, and Billy obviously making an effort to keep me around.
"This is home for me now, and I can't imagine playing anywhere else. I'm very happy to be here."
Dumba is embarking on his ninth season with the Wild and is one of the longest-tenured players in the organization after getting drafted seventh overall in 2012, but the 27-year-old is a regular in the rumor mill.
Seattle's arrival as the NHL's 32nd franchise didn't stop the chatter because it looked like the Wild might not be able to protect Dumba from the Kraken's expansion draft in July; if the Wild opted to protect the maximum 11 players, only three could be defensemen and the Wild had to give those spots to the players with no-movement clauses in their contracts (Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin).
What flipped the script was the Wild's decision to buy out Suter and forward Zach Parise, subtraction that gave the team the flexibility to hold onto Dumba. This was actually the second time the Wild shielded Dumba from an expansion draft. In 2017, the team swayed Vegas into picking Erik Haula and avoiding the likes of Dumba by trading Alex Tuch.
Not only did the Wild keep Dumba, who has two seasons left on his five-year, $30 million contract, but he's one half of the only returning pairing on the team's defense.
Besides cutting ties with Suter, the Wild lost Carson Soucy to Seattle and Ian Cole signed with Carolina. Brad Hunt, last season's seventh defenseman, also left via free agency to join Vancouver.
The Wild brought in Alex Goligoski, Dmitry Kulikov, Jon Merrill and Jordie Benn as replacements, giving the Wild a completely new look on defense except for the Dumba-Brodin duo.
"I'm looking forward to getting to know them better," Dumba said. "That's just a work in process. We're gonna have some opportunities to catch a beer with each other and just get to know each other a little bit better. I think as far as when we're at the rink, [it's] just going over little plays.
"All of us on the back end here have veteran status now, so guys have played a lot of different systems and are smart guys. That's why they're still in the league. I think guys will pick it up well."
As for Dumba, who recorded six goals and 15 assists in 51 contests last season, he's eyeing improvement in his own game – progress he gets to pursue while still wearing a Wild jersey.
"Be even better," he said about his expectations. "Even more sound defensively and contribute a little more offensively by just doing the right things: hitting the net every opportunity I get, capitalizing and just being sound. Being steady so there's no guesswork for my teammates. Just being predictable and making all the plays I should."
Chris O'Hearn was promoted to Wild assistant general manager, the team announced. One of the team's assistant GMs, Tom Kurvers, passed away in June. O'Hearn had been the team's director of hockey operations since 2019.
Michael Murray, who joined the Wild as assistant to the general manager in 2020, is the new director of hockey ops and will be GM of the Iowa Wild.
Mat Sells is the team's new vice president of hockey strategy, and Cliff Halstead will be the equipment manager after working 18 seasons in the Colorado organization.