Minnesota Wild Goalie Devan Dubnyk was one of the biggest stories of this past NHL season, and, his contract negotiations have been one of the most talked about of the NHL offseason. The 14th overall pick in the 2004 draft, Dubnyk spent the 2014-15 season rebounding from an awful 2013-14 that appeared to have knocked him out of the NHL, earning himself a nomination for the Vezina trophy and propelling his Wild to the Playoffs in the process. Earlier today, the public got news that Dubnyk had been rewarded for his efforts with a 6 year, $4.3 Million-a-year contract, and while most people would agree that locking Dubnyk up was an important move, the question of how much he’s actually worth is much more controversial. I’m here to tell you that $4.3 Million per-season is a fantastic deal for the Wild.
Given Dubnyk’s “phenom” status, 4.3 Million seems like a lot, but it isn’t so scary once you take a look at the contracts of other Goalies around the league; that average salary is only the NHL’s 20th largest among Goaltenders. Keeping in mind that there are 30 teams in the league, that ranking means that all Dubnyk needs to do to justify his contract is be in the top 2/3 of starting Goaltenders until the end of the deal (1). The qualms most people have with the deal are anchored with the idea that it was given after just one year, but — as some people forget– this is not Dubnyk’s first good season. Upon establishing himself as an NHL-er with the Oilers, Dubnyk posted the 11th-best Adjusted Sv% in the league among Goalies with at least as many games as him in 2010-11, 12th-best in 2011-12, and 4th-best in the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, all well within the range that would warrant the NHL’s 20th-highest Goalie Cap hit. It seems that his poor 2013-14 season, rather than this past one, was the exception. Add to this that Dubnyk was a tangibly better Goalie this season than he had been in his time with Edmonton, rather than just being hot. This past offseason, Dubnyk adopted the “Head Trajectory” technique, which involves following the play with your whole head, rather than just your eyes — something that the technique’s proponents say Goalies are doing anyway when they’re on their game, without even noticing. Given all of that, it seems to me that Dubnyk’s value far exceeds his Cap hit; given the constant escalation in both player salaries and the salary Cap, by the time that Dubnyk is once again a free agent, his annual payment will likely require even less of him than it does now. Until then, Dubnyk will likely well outplay his income just be being above average, or even just average. Of course, that 2013-14 season still represents risk in signing Dubnyk, and some may point to fellow 2015 Goalie sensation Andrew Hammond’s 3-year, 1.35 Million dollar a year contract and as the precedent for Devan Dubnyk’s situation. However, it seems clear to me that Dubnyk and Hammond are not in the same situation at all; whereas Dubnyk comes into his contract negotiations with a track record of 3 years of above-average Goaltending followed by a very poor season in 2013-14 and a sensational, 58-appearance 2014-15, Hammond had never posted better than a 91.7% Sv% at any level in his entire career before putting up a miraculous 94.1% in 24 NHL games this season (2).
An extra concern regarding Dubnyk is what it means for the Wild’smSalary Cap situation — with the Salary Cap increasing slightly to 71.4 Million Dollars (3) and the Dubnyk signing, the Wild will have a little under $8 Million (or maybe less, depending on whether or not newly signed Defenseman Mike Reilly makes the team) to sign youngsters Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, and Christian Folin (4)— but Dubnyk is more vital to the Wild’s success than any of those players.
No matter the extra Cap pressure Dubnyk’s contract applies, it was something they to do, and, all things considered, $26 Million over 6 years is getting it done very well. Dubnyk is at least an above average starter, and this is a great contract.
1 – http://www.generalfanager.com/leagueleaders?position=G&shoots=Both&team=all (General Fanager)
2 – war-on-ice.com/goalietable.html (War On Ice)
3 – http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=771568#&navid=nhl-search (NHL Official)
4 – generalfanager.com/teams/minnesota-wild (General Fanager)