Call it a bank shot. The San Jose Sharks are stuck with a well-paid goalie who has posted an .896 save percentage in each of the last two seasons. San Jose is talking to the Minnesota Wild about goalie Devan Dubnyk and bottom-six forward Ryan Donato. The move could not only spring the NHL trade market from its backlog, but it could have a direct impact on the Pittsburgh Penguins trade hopes, too.
San Jose is reportedly poised to give Minnesota, or Minnesota is pushing to get San Jose’s highest first-round pick, 31st overall, for Dubnyk and Donato.
With another first-round pick in hand, Minnesota will need a goalie.
The Penguins trade talks have centered on Matt Murray, and the presumed ask is a first-round pick.
In that possible scenario, Minnesota gets a motivated 26-year-old starting goalie. Murray would get a new team without the ghost of Marc-Andre Fleury, or any wildly popular former teammate peering over his shoulder. The Penguins get a first-round pick, albeit at the end of the round, and everyone could be happy.
It would make complete sense for Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin, who is very familiar with Murray, to spin that first-round pick back to the Penguins for Murray. And, we know Guerin and Penguins GM Jim Rutherford know how to work together. In addition to Guerin being the Penguins former AGM, the pair already connected on the Jason Zucker trade and the Nick Bjugstad salary split.
Murray is from Thunder Bay, ON. And if he had to pick a home team, Thunder Bay is as close to Minneapolis as it is Winnipeg, so Minnesota could also be a homecoming, of sorts. Certainly much closer to his home than Pittsburgh.
PHN has not written a story on Murray’s motivation because the Murray camp has mostly gone radio silent with media. We’ve heard a few things second hand. Darren Dreger alluded to it on Thursday night, when he said Murray is “very motivated.” Put yourself in Murray’s shoes. Yeah, the goalie is ready to prove everyone wrong; every glove-hand criticism and every knock after he was anointed the starter in the wake of Marc-Andre Fleury’s departure.
We’ve been told Murray is ready for this saga to end, and Murray will bring a little edge to his new team, too.
Guerin has a pair of Stanley Cup rings, which were won with Murray on the net. Minnesota has cap space to sign the goalie, and the market has probably lowered Murray’s salary ask.
We recently looked at what Minnesota could offer for Murray, but a 31st overall pick would likely trump the deck. And, no, for the Penguins to get a first-round pick in return for Murray, they cannot include a salary such as Jack Johnson.
Of course, Guerin is going to have his pick of goalies for that first-round pick. He could call Boston for Tuuka Rask. Would Toronto part with Freddy Andersen? Guerin could also call Arizona for Darcy Kuemper.
Or, he could keep the pick and go for Jakob Markstrom or Braden Holtby on the free-agent market.
Guerin could do many things, and the wild, unpredictable, chaotic offseason will only enhance his chances of revamping his team, which he has called “too comfortable.”
And yes, more than a few Penguins fans will note the sharp disparity in trade return. Minnesota could get a first-rounder for Dubnyk but only spend a first on Murray? That’s a complicated question which in part hinges on “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
Dubnyk’s contract status is a benefit, too. He has only one year left, so San Jose would have time to figure out their situation and not be saddled with another big contract.
If indeed, Guerin gets another first-round pick for a player he’d prefer to live without, it will again change the NHL trade market. And this one could be to the Penguins benefit. Or Boston’s benefit. Or Arizona. Or…
It will be Guerin’s world. Good on him, if he can pull it off.