The NHL Expansion Draft is tomorrow night, and now that protected lists have been confirmed there’s a lot of speculation about which unprotected players are fair game. There’s a lot of top name talent with big contracts out there as GMs use the draft as an opportunity to clear the books. Carey Price, Matt Duchene, and P.K. Subban are some of the big names being left unprotected tomorrow - and, of course, so is Vladimir Tarasenko.
Vince Dunn, who is a RFA, has also been left unprotected. Many consider Dunn and Tarasenko the two most appealing targets for an expansion draft selection, and for good reason. Dunn is a young, able top-four defenseman who is reasonably priced. His play has overall been decent for the Blues but he could benefit from a change of scenery - and the Blues could benefit from getting a bigger defenseman willing to go to unpleasant places on the ice.
Tarasenko is the less appealing of the two just because of the question marks that hang over his head. Will his production bounce back to a level worth that $7.5 million cap hit? Is spending that much on someone who may or may not be back to form a good idea for the Kraken?
They appear to think yes and no, if the rumors are to be believed:
Some teams interested in Vladimir Tarasenko have reached out to Seattle about selecting him in the Expansion Draft and flipping him to their club. If the right offer presents itself, Kraken may be willing to retain a portion of his contract.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) July 19, 2021
This works well for Seattle. Sure, they’d retain salary, but they’d get some picks for this year’s draft - and some other team would be more willing to take Tarasenko off of the Blues hands by way of Seattle. Doug Armstrong couldn’t move that contract before the trade freeze, and it’s not hard to figure out why: price plus injury history.
The Blues want a return on Tarasenko, and losing him for nothing would be less than ideal - save for the fact that his salary coming off of the books frees up a significant amount of space to go after one of the bigger name UFAs (if they’re still available after the draft).
What makes the Kraken selecting Tarasenko truly less than ideal is that eliminates an opportunity for the Blues to package him and Dunn together for any larger assets/return. By himself, Dunn will still get suitors, but the Blues will have to determine if they can find a return for him that’s an improvement versus a lateral pick-up from free agency.
Dunn may well stay in St. Louis with a slight payraise, and there’s nothing wrong with that - he’s still reliable and overall he’s a valuable defenseman. Would it be better if the Blues could beef up what was arguably one of their weaker positions? Sure - I don’t think anyone would cry if they could flip Dunn for a penalty-kill wizard.
Trading Dunn solo isn’t going to get the return that trading both Dunn and Tarasenko would. It would, however, free up some space so the Blues can fill a need. And, if the Kraken pick Tarasenko, Dunn would become the Blues’ best trade asset unless teams want a slightly used Marco Scandella or Top Line Forward Zach Sanford.