Wild general manager Bill Guerin didn’t waste any time shaking up things when it came to the team’s goaltending situation on Monday and that appears to be just the start. Three days after the Wild’s season came to an end with an overtime loss to Vancouver in Game 4 of the qualifying round of the Western Conference playoffs in Edmonton, Guerin dismissed longtime goalie coach Bob Mason.
“I was disappointed in the goaltending this year,” Guerin said during his end-of-season video chat. “Al (Stalock) had a tremendous year and Devan (Dubnyk) had an off year and it needs to be better. That’s just the way it is. If I told you anything different, I’d be lying to you. It was not a strong point for us.”
Guerin isn’t wrong. Dubnyk, the Wild’s longtime No. 1 goalie, and Stalock combined for an .897 save percentage in the regular season, putting them third-worst in the NHL. Dubnyk missed time to be with his wife in November and December as she dealt with a medical issue and that opened the door for Stalock to take over as the Wild’s top goalie. Stalock did a nice job but, at the age of 33 and in his ninth NHL season, he is more suited to be a backup than he is to handle the majority of the work.
Stalock played every game of the series against the Canucks and, after stopping 28 shots to shut out Vancouver in Game 1, the Wild dropped the next three games as Stalock gave up 12 goals. There would appear to be a good chance that Stalock returns to the Wild next season, but it’s far from certain Dubnyk will do the same.
Dubnyk quickly became the Wild’s top goalie after former general manager Chuck Fletcher acquired him from Arizona for a third-round pick in January 2015. Minnesota was eight points out of a playoff spot and desperate for goaltending help when Dubnyk joined the team in Buffalo. He shut out the Sabres in his Minnesota debut and the Wild ended up qualifying for the postseason. Dubnyk did not start fewer than 60 games over the next four seasons, but that number dropped to 30 before the coronavirus pandemic interrupted the 2019-20 season in March. The 34-year-old’s 3.35 goals-against average and .890 save percentage this season were easily his worst stats in five-plus seasons with Minnesota.
Dubnyk will be entering the final season of his six-year, $26 million contract in 2020-21. The deal contains a modified no-trade clause that enables Guerin to move him to 19 teams. There also is the possibility that if Guerin can’t find a taker for Dubnyk that he could be bought out. The salary-cap hit would be $2.7 million in 2020-21 and $833,333 the following season.
Stalock certainly isn’t breaking the bank. He played for a base salary of $905,000 this season and that figure will drop to $700,000 in 2020-21 and then $750,000 in the final season of his contract. Stalock’s cap hit for all three seasons will be $785,000.
Guerin was about as blunt as one can possibly be when he was asked if he sees Dubnyk and Stalock as the guys for next season who can help turn the goaltending around.