The St. Louis Blues only have one NHL-level free agent left to deal with. However, despite fan sentiment to the contrary, the team doesn’t need to rush a deal.
The St. Louis Blues are unlikely to make many more additions to their 2021 NHL roster. There is always the hope of squeezing in one more marquee name, but that’s quite unlikely given their history.
However, that does not mean their roster is fully formed just yet. Vince Dunn is still a restricted free agent.
If you’re wondering why he’s not been snatched up by another team, it is because the Blues did make Dunn a qualifying offer. That means, until Dunn signs a deal with the Blues, St. Louis has the right to match any offer from another team and if they let him go, that team owes the Blues compensation. The compensation is normally a draft pick or picks.
So, if the Blues know Dunn isn’t likely to go anywhere, why don’t they just sign him already? Plenty of fans are saying just that on the various social media outlets.
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I take a different view point. If nobody is likely to push the issue and give him an offer sheet, why rush?
You can argue that it’s a dangerous game and the Blues might irritate Dunn the way they might have with Alex Pietrangelo. It’s not forging a good working relationship if a player feels unwanted.
The flip side to that is a business decision. If a player has little-to-no leverage and a team makes him wait, he might be more likely to take a lower offer when it comes his way, out of worry for missing any or all of the season.
As stated, that’s a gamble, but worth taking. Dunn is not irreplaceable, so why not take the risk?
You don’t want to lose Dunn, since he has NHL experience and is a decent offensive player. He’s got 26 goals in three seasons with the Blues, which isn’t that bad since he’s averaged around 17 minutes per game during those seasons.
It’s defensively that Dunn is hard to tell what he is. His supporters point out the fact that he’s been plus-14 and plus-15 the last two seasons.
Plus/minus is more of a unit stat than a personal one, but it still means his units are scoring more goals when he’s on the ice than allowing. His metrics are decent too, having a solid defensive point share and a good expected goals against number in 2020 as well.
It just doesn’t pass the eye test, however. Dunn is more than fine when he set his mind to it, but he makes some jarring decisions at times.
Offense is the name of the game today, but you still have to defend. There has been more than one occasion where he flies up the ice only for a turnover to happen and Dunn has left a forward to attempt taking over his vacated defensive position.
His giveaway numbers are not good either. In three seasons, 31 giveaways is his lowest in one year with 49 being the most.
Dunn has plenty of fans and there’s no reason to think he cannot be a solid NHL player his entire career. I’m just not sure his entire career will be in St. Louis.
The Blues suddenly have an abundance of left-handed defensemen. Torey Krug tops that list, having just signed a long-term deal.
If Dunn can stick around longer than Carl Gunnarsson, there will likely remain a spot for him. There is just no guarantee that will be higher than the third pairing.
At this moment in time, it feels like Dunn’s NHL experience is holding him up as much as his talent. Scott Perunovich is essentially the same type of player with a very similar build, but coming straight from college to the NHL is not done that often these days. That gives Dunn a little breathing room.
Nevertheless, the Blues need be in no rush to get his contract done. They are in a position of power, so to speak.
As pointed out in Jim Thomas’ article on the subject, this is actually somewhat normal anyway. Doug Armstrong pointed out that in a normal offseason, guys usually either get signed right away or very close to the season. For example, Ivan Barbashev did not put pen to paper on his deal until September 1, which was roughly a month before the season began. If you use that for a guideline, Dunn might not get a deal done until sometime in December.
Personally, I’m torn on Dunn. Though there are plenty that disagree, I feel like third pairing is where he belongs and as high as he’ll get on a good team.
So, why rush to throw money at him? Technically, the Blues can only afford him because they seem to be indicating that Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen will both start the year on LTIR. If the Blues did not have that luxury, Dunn would probably be gone already.
The deal will get done and Dunn will make more than his rookie salary. Don’t be surprised if it is a short-term contract, however, which would be fair to both the team and player.