Devan Dubnyk resurrected his career with the Wild, using a midseason trade five years ago to become one of the most successful goalies in franchise history and among the steadiest in the NHL.
Now he’ll get the chance to bounce back with a new team yet again.
The Wild traded its longtime starter and a 2022 seventh-round draft pick Monday to San Jose for a 2022 fifth rounder while also retaining half of Dubnyk’s salary. Dubnyk has one season remaining on his six-year, $26 million contract.
“It is part of the change that’s going on here,” said General Manager Bill Guerin, who already this offseason has moved on from other veterans in Mikko Koivu and Eric Staal while getting younger. “We need to go in a different direction. Devan and I had some very good open conversations in the last little while, and, in the end, I just think that this is best for the Minnesota Wild.”
This decision wasn’t unexpected.
After the Wild bowed out of the NHL postseason just four games into its qualifying-round series inside the Edmonton bubble, Guerin expressed his disappointment with the team’s goaltending.
While backup Alex Stalock had a career year and took over the crease, including every minute of the playoffs, the 34-year-old Dubnyk struggled.
He went 12-15-2 with an .890 save percentage and 3.35 goals-against average — output that ranked among the worst in the league for goalies who logged at least as many games (30) as him.
Off the ice, his wife, Jenn, was dealing with a medical situation and Dubnyk left the team to be with her and their three children in November. He went on to sit out 14 games before eventually returning to play.
Despite the adversity, Dubnyk vowed to return ready to resume his post as the Wild’s starter. Instead, he’ll now vie for games with the Sharks’ current No. 1 Martin Jones.
Dubnyk’s contract did include a modified no-trade list, but San Jose wasn’t on it.
Although the final chapter of his Wild career came to an unceremonious close, Dubnyk’s tenure in Minnesota was inspiring.
A first-round pick in 2004 who broke in with the Oilers, Dubnyk was shipped from Edmonton to Nashville and then Montreal only months apart in 2014 before getting demoted to the minors.
Next season, Arizona tabbed him to be its backup and Dubnyk capitalized on the opportunity to re-establish himself as an NHLer — so much so that the Wild acquired him on Jan. 14, 2015, to stabilize its crease during the team’s second-half playoff push.
What happened next was one of the more legendary moments in team history. After an overnight flight to meet up with the team in Buffalo, Dubnyk stopped all 18 shots he faced to become the first Wild goalie to win his debut in shutout fashion.
Overall, Dubnyk went 27-9-2 with a 1.78 goals-against average, .936 save percentage and five shutouts that season to lead the Wild to the playoffs and secure his spot with the organization.
His torrid run, on the heels of bottoming out to the minors, earned him the 2015 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which recognizes perseverance and dedication to hockey. Dubnyk also finished third in Vezina Trophy voting for the NHL’s top goalie and was fourth in the race for league MVP. He was also named to the NHL’s Second All-Star Team.
Since then, Dubnyk represented the Wild in three All-Star Games (2016, 2017 and 2019). He ranks second or tied for second in many franchise categories, including wins (177), save percentage (. 918), goals-against average (2.41) and shutouts (23). Dubnyk also leads the NHL in games played (328) and sits second in wins (177) since he made his Wild debut.
He and Jenn, who have made the Twin Cities their home, have three sons: Nate, Parker and Dawson.
“He was a good player for this organization for a long time,” Guerin said.
The Wild plans to address its vacancy in goal as soon as possible, with Guerin open to finding a replacement via trade or free agency; it was a deep pool of options that Guerin felt enabled him to move on from Dubnyk. Henrik Lundqvist, Braden Holtby and Corey Crawford are among the free agents, while Marc-Andre Fleury, Darcy Kuemper and Matt Murray look like trade candidates.
Stalock is under contract for the next two seasons and when asked about prospect Kaapo Kahkonen, Guerin described the net as having “constant competition” before mentioning he needs to see more of Kahkonen to determine his potential.
“We’re just still going to have to contemplate what’s best for our team,” Guerin said. “The next couple of days we’ll see how things shake out and what direction we go.”