Rangers Would Be Dumba Not To Do It

Jeff Gorton’s performance in the days leading up to the roster freeze before tonight’s expansion draft announcement was safe but, consequently, boring. A complete lack of action—or even substantial rumors—will do that. In the lack of action, however, there’s still a gaping hole on the Rangers’ first-pair next to captain Ryan McDonagh and this offseason will be a colossal failure if that’s not addressed.

As such, it’s hard to think that Gorton isn’t actively pursuing trades to upgrade the Rangers’ right-side defense. At this point, considering the fact that Anaheim has reportedly already lost Shea Theodore, the under-discussed Matt Dumba, the soon-to-be 23-year-old, could provide the Rangers an opportunity to upgrade the blueline. However, the price would be high.

Namely, the price could be Derek Stepan. His name has already come up in trade talks and for Minnesota, he’d provide outstanding center depth.

Aesthetically, the optics suggest that Minnesota general manager Chuck Fletcher wouldn’t want to trade Dumba, since he reportedly chose to send blue chip prospect Alex Tuch to Las Vegas so that they’d select Erik Haula and not Dumba. However, that move a) creates a hole at center vacated by Haula and b) does not address the fact that Dumba’s contract is up after next year.

The Wild could decide to move the aging Miko Koivu or Charlie Coyle back to center, but both have seemed to have found solid roles as top-six wingers, so moving one down to third-line center could create lineup balancing issues. While youngster Joel Eriksson Ek figures to slot in, it’s hard for a Stanley Cup contender to bank on a prospect in an important role. Enter Stepan, who could share the 2a/2b center role with Eric Staal and provide a ton of lineup flexibility. Adding a player of Stepan’s calibre would give Minnesota top-end center depth and make it much easier to absorb the potential losses of Koivu and Staal when their contracts are up after 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Upgrading the center spot, alone, might not be enough for Fletcher to trade Dumba, and rightfully so. But the back half of moving him is that it will be difficult to afford him when his contract is up and he becomes an RFA after next season. Dumba signed a two-year, $5.1 million bridge deal last offseason but won’t come cheap if he continues to be a 10-goal, 30-point, 20:00 a night right-side defender. If he maintains his 2016-17 pace, his bottom line will almost certainly be $5m per year on a long-term extension.

The problem with that, for Minnesota, is that they’ve already got four defenseman (Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, and Marco Scandella) making at least $4m per season. Adding them all up, the Wild have just under $21 million committed to their defense corps without addressing the bottom pair. That makes it awfully hard to justify handing out another big contract to a defender even if the player is worth the money—and Dumba is.

Note—it’s possible that Minnesota would explore trading a different defenseman to make room for Dumba, and Stepan/Brodin talks have happened in the past but never materialized.

For the Rangers to justify a Stepan-for-Dumba swap, they’ll probably need to sweeten the pot a bit to address their own center depth. In that vein, Eriksson Ek would be the perfect addition. He’s too strong of a prospect to be a throw-in, but he’ll be a good two-way player that could slide into the Rangers’ lineup and compete with Oscar Lindberg for the 3c and 4c roles (assuming Vegas doesn’t take Lindberg). He’s shown a bit of offensive proclivity in his 15 NHL games and has a skillset similar to Kevin Hayes, though he’s a better shooter.

Because of Eriksson Ek’s upside, New York would probably have to send another pick or prospect as well, but there’s potentially a value match if New York sends Stepan and a third-round pick for Dumba and Eriksson Ek.

Any trade of this nature hinges on one thing: Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher’s appetite for winning right now. After trading Tuch, it’ll be hard to also move Eriksson Ek, since that would leave the prospect pool fairly dry. But there’s no doubt that Stepan makes their lineup better while Dumba’s loss is mitigated by the fact that the Wild have a solid top-four without him. Meanwhile, the Rangers would get the smooth-skating, gifted partner for McDonagh they need by making a Sather-era type of splash we’ve all been expecting.

Discussion
  1. There's still talk they may want to move Scandella (instead of Dumba). Cap flexibility and finding top-four roles for who they feel their "core" is both explain why they might still move a D. Plus, they could use another center.
    LONG TIME FAN
    The NYR have already announced that Dan Girardi will NOT be retained and WILL be bought out.

    Yea, but they haven't, so here we are.
    ThirtyONE
    Way too soon to say it's been "boring". Girardi was cut and Klein will retire. Hardly boring. Those holes will have to be filled somehow and they will. They've got all summer to build a team, only pressing issue is Derek Stepan.

    NYR will buy him out; didn't " cut " him.
    Future
    Well, Klein hasn't retired and Girardi hasn't been bought out. So really, nothing has actually happened.

    The NYR have already announced that Dan Girardi will NOT be retained and WILL be bought out.
    Future
    If you move Stepan for a D, like Dumba, then you don't have to sign Shatt.

    Minnesota is screwed cap wise. They can't take Stepan even if they wanted to. Unless they have a bad contract coming the Rangers way, I don't see the Rangers and Wild being trade partners in the scenario.
    ThirtyONE
    Way too soon to say it's been "boring". Girardi was cut and Klein will retire. Hardly boring. Those holes will have to be filled somehow and they will. They've got all summer to build a team, only pressing issue is Derek Stepan.

    Grable grable grable grable grable, you cant cut players in the NHL!!!!!!! Grable grable grable grable grable grable grable grable grable grable grable grable grable grable.
    Future
    If you move Stepan for a D, like Dumba, then you don't have to sign Shatt.

    I don't know if we want to give additional assets for Dumba outside of Stepan, and that may make a deal difficult. It would not bring us the impact player that Shattenkirk has shown to be. He's still probably the best option to shore up our first D pairing in terms of ability to get.
    Cash or Czech?
    I still think our play is to move Stepan, sign Shattenkirk and revamp the forward lines next season. It's going to be a struggle if we don't actually replace Stepan, no matter how good our D is (see Nashville Predators 2016-17).

    If you move Stepan for a D, like Dumba, then you don't have to sign Shatt.
    I still think our play is to move Stepan, sign Shattenkirk and revamp the forward lines next season. It's going to be a struggle if we don't actually replace Stepan, no matter how good our D is (see Nashville Predators 2016-17).
    Way too soon to say it's been "boring". Girardi was cut and Klein will retire. Hardly boring. Those holes will have to be filled somehow and they will. They've got all summer to build a team, only pressing issue is Derek Stepan.

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