Matt Dumba wants to continue to play for the Wild, and Minnesota is home for the defenseman.
That's the message Dumba relayed to General Manager Bill Guerin during Dumba's exit meeting on Tuesday, but the team figures to have some maneuvering to do to shield Dumba from Seattle in the NHL's latest expansion draft in July.
"They always made a way to make it work in the past," Dumba said. "My name's in trade speculation every year, at the deadline, throughout the year. I've become accustomed to it. It is what it is. I've expressed my feelings and where I want to be, where my heart is. At the end of the day, that's all I can do."
This is a familiar crossroads for Dumba and the Wild.
When the NHL had an expansion draft for Vegas in 2017, the Wild enticed the Golden Knights into selecting Erik Haula and steering clear of the likes of Dumba by trading Alex Tuch to Vegas. A similar strategy might be required this year if the Wild wants to hold onto Dumba, who has two seasons left on his five-year, $30 million contract.
The Wild can choose to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie, or eight skaters and one goalie. If the Wild goes the first route, the three spots on defense would be taken by captain Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin since they have no-movement clauses; players with such clauses have to be protected unless they waive them.
And if the Wild opted to pick eight skaters regardless of position, the team could run the risk of exposing a forward it wants to keep. Zach Parise and Mats Zuccarello are the forwards with no-movement clauses. First and second-year players, like Kirill Kaprizov, are exempt from the expansion draft and don't have to be protected.
"I love it here," Dumba said. "It's felt different this year, this season. I'm super excited to be a part of this new Minnesota Wild team. I know from a fan's perspective, it does feel like that. This isn't your old Minnesota Wild team. It's not boring hockey. We've got high-octane offense. We play this gritty style, different than in years past.
"I feel like I fit into that kind of group. I want to be here."
In the meantime, Dumba will try to block out the rumors.
"I'm thinking of going to the Bahamas and just leaving my phone," he said.
Brodin was knocked out of Game 7 against Vegas with a shoulder injury, spraining his AC joint after he was crushed into the boards by the Golden Knights' Nicolas Roy on just Brodin's third shift of the game.
"It was really disappointing," Brodin said. "It hurt pretty good, but I thought it was worse than it was. So, it's going to get better. Just a couple weeks and then I can start training. It's not going to affect me in any way next year coming up."
Center Joel Eriksson Ek is also healing after suffering a knee injury flying into a goalpost.
"That's how it is in playoffs," Eriksson Ek said. "Everybody plays hard. Everybody gets something."
Eriksson Ek is up for a new contract after a breakout season in which he scored a career-high 19 goals.
"I want to be here," Eriksson Ek said. "I think it's pretty clear I like it. I've been here for four years now, four-and-a-half almost, and it's been nothing but great. The fans, the city, and everybody on the team is amazing."
Impending unrestricted free agent Nick Bonino expects to have contract talks with Guerin ahead of the expansion draft, but Bonino understands Guerin must be mindful of the Seattle situation in addition to re-signing players like Eriksson Ek, Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala.
That could cause a holding pattern for soon-to-be free agents if their current teams decide to hold off on any new deals until after the expansion draft is done, potentially making it easier to get to free agency.
"You want to extend. You want to have security and get a deal," Bonino said. "But the closer you go to free agency, you always want to see what is out there, too. You're that close to 31 now other teams having an option to sign you.
"So, I think the longer it goes, in most cases most UFAs might see that as an opportunity to test the market. But then again, the team you're in, you built relationships with the players. I know Billy pretty well, obviously, and my agent does, too. So, I'm sure there will be some discussion."
Defenseman Ian Cole is another free agent and is open to sticking around with the Wild.
"I had a great time here," said Cole, who was acquired in January in a trade from Colorado. "I love the guys. I think it's a very good team — a young, up-and-coming team — and I'd love to be a part of it."