The NHL rumor mill has fixated on Seth Jones and Dougie Hamilton as off-season targets for clubs seeking a skillful top-pairing, right-side defenseman.
Jones, 26, informed the Columbus Blue Jackets he intends to test next summer’s free-agent market. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, are allowing 28-year-old Hamilton to speak with other clubs ahead of his UFA eligibility on July 28.
A more affordable option, however, could be Matt Dumba. Since last summer, the 26-year-old Minnesota Wild blueliner frequently surfaced in media conjecture. The Wild could be forced to trade Dumba if unable to protect him from next month’s expansion draft.
NBC Sports’ James O’Brien suggested last week Dumba could be a better bet than Jones. Acknowledging reports of considerable interest in the Blue Jackets defensemen, O’Brien noted the similarities in their game as right-handed puck-moving rearguards. He felt Dumba could be a more affordable choice in terms of salary and trade assets.
Jones has a year remaining on his contract with a $5.4 million annual average value and could seek over $8 million annually on his next deal. Hamilton could also pursue that much on the open market or through a sign-and-trade scenario before July 28.
Dumba has two seasons left on his contract with an annual cap hit of $6 million. That would be easier to absorb than whatever Jones could get next year or Hamilton this summer.
It’s unlikely teams will take O’Brien’s advice. There could be a bidding war for Jones’ services that should fetch the Blue Jackets a big haul while Hamilton seems destined to land a lucrative long-term contract somewhere.
Still,if the Wild shop Dumba ahead of the expansion draft, he could prove a suitable alternative for clubs that lose out in the Jones or Hamilton sweepstakes.