Vince Dunn, a 24 year old Stanley Cup winning defenseman, may be the Blues’ biggest question mark on defense this off-season.
Most NHL teams would consider that a perfectly fine problem to have - sign him to another decent RFA deal and be done with it. The Blues, however, don’t view themselves as having that luxury, or else Dunn wouldn’t be up for discussion. After another early post-season exit - the second in the two years since they won the Stanley Cup - there’s concern that the team’s Cup window is closing. To prop it open, the Blues need to make moves to improve, especially on defense. They need size, and they need people who can make life very unpleasant for the opposing team, be that through physical play or the ability to take away space on the ice.
This year, they didn’t have that, and it showed. Dunn was moved up to the second pairing with Marco Scandella, and his defensive play flagged. Never considered a purely offensive defenseman, Dunn put up a decent six goals and 14 assists in 43 games played this season. Had his season not been shortened by injuries, Dunn may have scored at his 2018-2019 pace of 12 goals and 23 assists.
That year’s output is what general managers will be looking at, and they may view this season’s offense as a return to that form. Dunn is finishing up a one year, $1,875,000 RFA contract and is still a RFA this off-season. Unquestionably, Dunn will be seeking a raise - no pending RFA seeks a pay reduction, after all - but Doug Armstrong may want to shift his defensive plans in a way that isn’t necessarily focused on scoring.
Dunn, whose last game was April 24th, has been the subject of trade speculation for much of this season. Armstrong holding him at the trade deadline was assumed to be a move intended to not mess with the team’s chemistry down the stretch, but it also could be because he was asking a lot for the defenseman. Elliotte Friedman has reported that Armstrong was requesting a first round pick for Dunn, who was drafted in round two (56th overall) of the 2015 expansion draft.
That feels very expensive.
It apparently was expensive enough for GMs to take a pass. Now that Dunn’s season is complete, and with his injury potentially driving down his price, the Blues could be in a position to either trade his rights or re-sign Dunn, then deal him.
Friedman didn’t mention any specific teams interested in Dunn, but a defenseman of his age and production would be appealing to most teams. If the Blues temper their asking price, chances are good that they can get some offers for him before the NHL Expansion Draft on July 21st.