The wait is over, Vince Dunn will be at training camp with the St. Louis Blues. The young defenseman has signed a one-year, $1.875MM contract today, pushing off any long-term negotiations for another season. Dunn, 24, will still be a restricted free agent at the end of the deal.
In terms of cost versus production, this is certainly a win for the Blues, who will get one more season of excess value from their young defender. Dunn has turned into quite the offensive dynamo for the team even in limited minutes, racking up 82 points over his three seasons despite averaging just 17 minutes a night. Some of that production has been from the second powerplay unit, a role he seems likely to stay in even after the departure of Alex Pietrangelo. Torey Krug, the newcomer who scored a long-term deal with the Blues, is one of the league’s top powerplay quarterbacks and is headed for the first unit.
Still, even as a second unit QB and depth option at even-strength, Dunn has proven his worth. His possession numbers are excellent, he has improved his own-end defensive ability and he’s even physical enough to fit into head coach Craig Berube’s style. There’s no doubt that a more expensive deal is coming for Dunn if his play continues, but for now, he’ll slide in behind Krug, Justin Faulk, Colton Parayko, and Marco Scandella in terms of defensive cap hits.
The deal takes St. Louis just about $3MM over the salary cap ceiling according to CapFriendly, with a Mike Hoffman contract worth somewhere between $3.5MM and $4.5MM still to come. The team does have some flexibility, however, with Alex Steen and perhaps Vladimir Tarasenko both due to hit long-term injured reserve status.
Dunn was the final RFA for the Blues to sign as they prepare for the season, though it has certainly been a very busy offseason. They have a new captain in Ryan O’Reilly, a new defensive leader in Parayko, and a new backup goaltender in Ville Husso, who will have a lot of eyes on him early. The Blues traded away Jake Allen to clear cap room but now are awfully thin at an important position. Should Jordan Binnington falter or deal with injury, the organization has almost no NHL experience behind him. Husso has not played a game at that level, while Jon Gillies, the presumptive third option, has 12 career games, last seeing the NHL in 2017-18.