Matt Dumba's voice, raspy to begin with, carried an even more pronounced somber edge to it Monday as the veteran Wild defenseman addressed the media during the team's locker room clear-out day at Xcel Energy Center.
Three nights prior, the Wild's short playoff stint ended with a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of an NHL first-round series. Likely ending with the playoff loss was Dumba's time with the team. His five-year, $30 million contract expires July 1, when he will become an unrestricted free agent. The Wild, tight against the salary cap largely because of the twin buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in 2021, likely won't be able to afford to re-sign Dumba, who says he would like to stay in Minnesota but also knows NHL contract realities.
"My heart is definitely here in Minny," Dumba said. "I want to win. I want to win here. But I really don't know what lies ahead."
The Calgary native, who will turn 29 in July, has survived a pair of expansion drafts, three general managers and countless trade rumors to remain in Minnesota. He has grown to adore the state.
"When I was younger, I always just bounced home after the season," he said. "… I'd be getting out of the city pretty quick to get back home. I didn't realize all those years I was missing the best part of Minnesota: the lake life."
Dumba has been a mainstay in the Wild lineup for a decade, collecting 79 goals and 157 assists in 598 career games. Off the ice, he has also been active in the community, winning the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 2020 for his work in support of racial and social justice.
“I don't know what's gonna happen, but it's been awesome. I've played with him for 11 years now. We grew up together. It's tough.”
The seventh overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft hit his peak on the ice during a 14-goal, 50-point showing in 2017-18, but hasn't matched that productivity since. He had four goals and 10 assists in 79 games this season, giving him his fewest points in any full season. However, his defensive game improved as he had a career-high 116 blocked shots.
"I'm really proud of how it ended up and what I thought was some of my best hockey," he said.
On Friday, a visibly stunned Dumba spent most of the third period on the bench after hitting his head on the glass while absorbing a check. His longtime defensive partner and good friend, Jonas Brodin, convinced him to leave the ice.
"He's a guy the other night that said, 'You know what? I'm not going to let you play,'" Dumba said, pausing to collect his emotions. "So, just having that kind of friend that looks out for you like that, he's a good dude. We've played some awesome hockey together."
Said Brodin: "I don't know what's gonna happen, but it's been awesome. I've played with him for 11 years now. We grew up together. It's tough."
Dumba said he doesn't yet have a salary in mind as free agency approaches, though his 2022-23 salary of $6 million almost certainly would be out of the Wild's price range. Talks with Wild General Manager Bill Guerin will help determine his hockey future.
"I mean, there's always a way," Dumba said. "Crazy things happen in sports all the time. I'm definitely not ruling anything out."