Devan Dubnyk had an uncertain future in Edmonton for most of the time he was there; the club’s defensive inconsistencies and the style of play he was encouraged to pursue were a disaster waiting to happen.
A regression season from Dubnyk saw the Oilers deal him to the Nashville Predators to help fill in for a long-term absence from starter Pekka Rinne despite Dubnyk’s requests not to move him, and a quick turnaround found him in the AHL by the trade deadline. The one year, $800,000 deal he was inked to by the Arizona Coyotes in the summer of 2014 was a last chance offer to help him reestablish his good name in the NHL.
Sure enough, he rediscovered his game — and with some tweaking to the portions of his play most likely to result in weaknesses in net, Devan Dubnyk found himself finishing out the 2014-2015 season as a Vezina nominee and Masterton Trophy winner.
Now, he’s being re-upped by the Wild — for what’s being reported as a six year deal.
The Minnesota Wild and Devan Dubnyk have apparently agreed to a deal, says @FriedgeHNIC in the realm of six years, $25 million. #NHL
— NHLnumbers (@NHLnumbers) June 27, 2015
TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the deal could have an average cap hit close to $4M, in keeping with the ~$25 million total figure being reported by Elliotte Friedman. The specifics are being released later.
Six years is a long time for any goaltender, and the league is starting to see a shift in mentality away from making long commitments to netminders when there’s still so much inconsistency in net. A lack of awareness around the NHL and the minor leagues supplements a troubling range in styles that are encouraged as the ‘best’ way to play in net — and with few analysts truly understanding the difference between bad play and regressive play, there’s a lot of poorly evaluated net talent getting either too much term or too little.
Dubnyk’s deal is a little on the long side even for those who believe in locking up a starter, given his style and track record.
He worked with Coyotes goaltending coach Sean Burke to pull back into net and emphasize a held position when tracking the play, only moving out of position to make a save once the play had been accurately tracked and evaluated. This improved his play by a huge margin, as his former goaltending coach (Frederic Chabot) had instead emphasized pulling out to attack an incoming shooter.
The initial concern with this deal following that path is that it’s too similar to the situation with the Arizona Coyotes, where a year of excellent play under Burke resulted in a contract that was far too long and far too hefty for the currently struggling starter.
To an extent, this concern is valid. Dubnyk’s gut instinct will likely be to fall back into the habit of attacking the play and occasionally playing the puck in traffic, something that may see his numbers take a dip back out of their currently impressive range.
Where this situation differs from the Smith scenario, though, is in the raw talent levels of both Dubnyk and Smith. Smith lacks the ability to track and read the play at the same level as Dubnyk, and he’s a little bit slower to catch on and readjust when he misreads a situation. For this reason, Dubnyk is less likely to see the kind of regression that Smith has.
Overall, though, the contract could have been far worse. This may be a little lengthy, but it’s affordable and pretty well-deserved.