Kraken Are in a Win-Win Situation with Vince Dunn

Through 21 games this season, the Seattle Kraken are a slightly surprising 13-5-3. Considering the strong start, I think it’s time to check in on someone who I was really vocal in criticizing during the offseason: defenseman Vince Dunn.

Vince Dunn, Seattle Kraken
Vince Dunn, Seattle Kraken (Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images)

Since this is a contract year for Dunn, I concluded that if he doesn’t show signs that he’s stepping into and claiming the No. 1 defenseman role, then the Kraken brass should look to move him at the trade deadline. However, if his play thus far is sustainable, he may be en route to earning another contact with the Kraken.

Related: Kraken Need Dunn to Step Up Offensively or Consider Trading Him

First, we’ll take a look at Dunn’s season so far and project how his current productivity rate will look over the course of an 82-game season. Then, I’ll address my previous stances regarding him and decide whether the Kraken should stay the course or look to move him.

Vince Dunn Has Had the Start He Needed

Dunn’s performance last season looked good on paper, but it wasn’t what the Kraken needed from him; they needed more. To be fair, he was behind Mark Giordano for a majority of the season in terms of the No. 1 defenseman role. Now, the spotlight is on him and he’s off to a promising start. Let’s take a look at some stats.

Vince Dunn2021-22 Season2022-23 Season82-Game Pace
Primary Assists9311.7
Secondary Assists19623.4
Power-play Points11519.5
Shooting Percentage5.80%12.10%47.20%
Penalty Minutes63831.2

The first thing I want to touch upon is the shooting percentage projection. Obviously, 47.2 percent is an incredible rate and most likely unsustainable; I just thought it would be fun to add given that I listed it in the table above. However, between that and an increase in his offensive zone starts, it makes sense that his goals above expected are up from .5 last season to 2.1 this season.

Additionally, it indicates that Dunn has a strong chance of hitting double-digit goals for the second time in his career. Kraken goalscoring is trending upward — fans can see the results in their record — and the more it comes from the blue line the better. It’s another positive sign that his penalty minutes are down from last season, as the more time he spends on ice the likelier it is for him to hit 50 points for the first time in his career. 

Related: 3 Things Kraken Fans Should Be Thankful For

So far this season, Dunn is seeing the most ice time of his career by far. Last season, he averaged 20:41 time on ice, which was his career best, and he’s looking at 23:23 a night this season. That’s a very important stat to note because it shows that head coach Dave Hakstol trusts him in that role. He’s also seen a career-high 19:09 total time on ice killing penalties, which further illustrates that point. 

The eye test alone shows me that he’s a lot more noticeable in the offensive zone this season, though some credit goes to his partnership with Adam Larsson. While his secondary assists still outnumber his primary assists, he has players around him that are evidently more capable distributors and finishers than he had in 2021-22. The team’s increase in goals-for is a direct reflection of that. 

Vince Dunn: To Trade or Not to Trade

Here we go. I called Dunn out, and he responded on the ice. Do I stick with my offseason take or eat crow? Well, don’t hate me for sitting on the fence here, but it’s just too soon to tell. There are a lot of things that can happen between now and the trade deadline. He could regress, the team could regress, and there’s always the injury bug that loves to rear its ugly head at the worst moments.

I’m a proponent of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If the Kraken keep up their winning ways, and their current productivity level, then they shouldn’t make any major changes that could jeopardize that. If that means going into the offseason with Dunn looking for a new contract, they should just cross that bridge when they get to it. 

I’ve argued for a while now that their offseason additions, both from the draft and in acquiring players, shaved a year off the team’s build. I could be proven wrong (in a positive way) if this team makes the playoffs because, despite this, I still didn’t have them making the cut ahead of the season. I’ll even concede and give them late-season contention since we all know playoff hockey truly starts before the postseason does. 

Related: 4 Best Kraken Moments at the Quarter-Mark of 2022-23

If this team is winning and Dunn’s performance is at, near, or exceeding my 82-game pace projections, then he deserves a shot to finish what he started with the Kraken this season. I don’t think that they are ready for a Stanley Cup run even if they make the playoffs, so to “sell the farm” for a rental could set this team back in a way that a few offseason moves may not be able to immediately turn around. If either he were to drastically slow down his production or the team were to go through a really bad slump and fall from contention, then the door’s open for a trade deadline move where the Kraken should look to bring in either prospects or draft capital.

Dunn isn’t going to be Cale Makar, most players aren’t. However, he’s had the start to the season that both he needed and the Kraken needed from him. He won’t be winning a Norris Trophy, but if his productivity keeps at this pace, then the Kraken will be on the path to playing meaningful hockey in the spring, if not into the summer. If that’s the case, it may be wise to keep him in Seattle for the foreseeable future.

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