Matt Dumba played 10 seasons and almost 600 games for the Wild. Few defensemen have racked up more goals, assists and points with the franchise, and his leadership was recognized when he was named an alternate captain two years ago.
But what stands out to Dumba when he reflects on that tenure has nothing to do with hockey. Instead, it's the lifelong friends he made.
"We grew up as men together," Dumba said. "We started out as just little boys. That's what I'll remember, just all the friendships, memories made. It's been one hell of a ride here in Minny. I'm so thankful for it."
The 29-year-old Dumba secured a one-year, $3.9 million contract from Arizona, an arrival made official by the Coyotes on Monday but a departure from the Wild that felt inevitable all last season with the team on the brink of a severe cap crunch.
“There's highs and lows. I think everyone feels that, but when you're in one spot doing it for a long time, it accumulates, right? I've been able to push through all those things.”
Before signing, Dumba was a free agent for about a month, time spent "letting things unfold" with plenty of teams having little money to spend just like the Wild. Still, "Arizona was around from Day 1," Dumba said.
"We just needed to take the time to look at everything and be calculated and make sure this was the right fit," Dumba explained. "We know it is, and I'm so happy to be here."
Jonas Brodin is happy for Dumba, too.
Brodin called his longtime defensive partner Monday morning, and Dumba said Brodin, whom Dumba calls one of his best friends, put the situation in perspective.
"When I look back at the time of just our friendship, it's something special," said Dumba, who exits the Wild with 79 goals, 157 assists and 236 points in 598 games after being drafted seventh overall in 2012. "Even our hockey and the levels we took it to as a pairing, it was one hell of a run. Not too many guys can say that they've played that long together and know each other like me and [Brodin] know each other."
Although Dumba already has a place in Arizona, he's planning to keep his house in Minnesota. That's where he'll spend his summers, and he said it'll be his home base one day. While with the Wild, Dumba was actively involved in the community, with efforts that included launching the Matt Dumba Hockey Without Limits Camp to bring more diversity and inclusion to the sport.
"My work won't stop," Dumba said. "It won't stop here. I got some great former teammates on the Wild that will pick up a lot of the pieces that I've left behind and help facilitate them while I'm gone and be there and continue to grow the game."
On and off the ice, Dumba made an impact while representing the Wild. The experience changed him, too.
"I'm pretty resilient," Dumba said. "I've been through a lot here: injuries, ups and downs, being on the block, not playing my best, playing my best. There's highs and lows. I think everyone feels that, but when you're in one spot doing it for a long time, it accumulates, right?
"I've been able to push through all those things, good and bad, and add it to the fire. That fire is burning. My passion for the game and wanting to be the best defenseman that I can be is burning as strong as it ever has. That's what I want to bring to AZ, and I think that's what people are going to see."