It would seem like Devan Dubnyk‘s desire to stay in Minnesota is a given, but it’s still nice to hear that he’s happy with how his year went.
After flying around the league in the 2013-2014 season due to some long-overdue regression and ill timing, Dubnyk had one of the best Cinderella stories in the NHL last season. His rise to prominence — first as the stronger netminder backing up starter Mike Smith in Arizona, then as the starter in Minnesota following a mid-season trade — was both well-documented and heartwarming.
He started nearly every game over the second half of Minnesota’s season, posting league-leading numbers that put him in the same conversation as Carey Price, Pekka Rinne, Steve Mason, Braden Holtby, and even pushed him ahead of a number of other prototypical franchise starters such as Tuukka Rask and Henrik Lundqvist. He pushed a team from the bottom of the barrel — losing seven and eight consecutive games over the first half of the year — to a playoff position, then helped them to the second round.
A sweep by the Chicago Blackhawks clearly left him disappointed, but he wants to be back next year.
“I’m very grateful for [this year’s] opportunity,” elaborated Dubnyk when asked about his time in Minnesota. “The way everyone treated me here — fans, coaches, media, everyone — has been awesome.”
It seems like a near guarantee that Dubnyk will get his shot to return to the Wild next year, especially in light of the still-inconsistent play of youngster Darcy Kuemper and the declining play of former starter Niklas Backstrom. The question, rather, is which netminders teams will target once he’s potentially taken off the market.
The easiest answer is likely either Jhonas Enroth or Robin Lehner, especially for a team looking for a consistent backup. Enroth was happy with Dallas, but wants to go to a team that will give him more starts — and with the signing of UFA Boston University goalie Matt O’Connor by the Ottawa Senators, there’s one too few spots on Ottawa’s depth chart for their current backup. Unless they opt to part ways with Andrew Hammond instead, the Senators could turn Lehner loose.
Digging a little deeper, though, there are still a few more option for teams that were hoping to potentially snag Dubnyk.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a rebuild stage, and they could continue to use both James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier — but if the team is looking for a fresh start, the easiest answer would likely be to turn away one of those two moving forward.
There’s also the question of where Connor Hellebuyck will play next season for the Winnipeg Jets. A standout for Team USA at the World Championships, UMass Lowell’s former star netminder was lights out for the St. John’s Ice Caps this last season. Team Canada’s backup from the World Juniors, though, may be joining them next season as well — and if having Peter Budaj around to help Hellebuyck is something the team wants to do with Eric Comrie as well, that leaves Hellebuyck, Michael Hutchinson, and Ondrej Pavelec all fighting for a job at the NHL level. It would clearly benefit Hellebuyck to stay in the AHL an extra season, but the club may opt against it and shop Hutchinson around.
Whatever the case may be elsewhere in the league, though, it at least seems like Devan Dubnyk is going to find his happy ending for now.