Even though the Montreal Canadiens are included in the NHL’s return to play plans, management and the team’s fan are still looking ahead to the offseason. The Canadiens managed to grab the final position as the 24th seed for the play-in tournament. However, finishing 24th out of 31 teams isn’t promising. It also means there are some deficiencies on the team that need to be addressed. One of these is the left defence. Which quite frankly, has been concerning since the departure of Andrei Markov. The Habs have what looks to be a promising upgrade on the way in Alexander Romanov. However, Romanov alone is not enough. The club needs more. Ben Chiarot, Victor Mete and Brett Kulak are all quality and serviceable defenceman. However, none have top pairing acumen. One player who could help fill this void is current St. Louis Blues defender Vince Dunn.
Vince Dunn Should be Targetted by Marc Bergevin in the Offseason
If you look at the unrestricted free agents entering the upcoming offseason, the only notable left-shot defenceman is current Boston Bruins Torey Krug. And sure, Krug would be a serious upgrade and someone Bergevin would surely like to get his hands on. However, it is expected that Krug is going to lock up with the Bruins longterm. He has stressed his interested to stay in Boston and the feeling is mutual from the club. So if Bergevin really wants to try to upgrade his team, it will have to be through an offer sheet or a trade.
Take Advantage of the Blues Cap Situation
Fortunately, Dunn can be acquired with either one of those options. Dunn is set to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Given the Blues cap troubles, having roughly $2 million in cap space with Alex Pietrangelo and Vince Dunn to sign, they will need to move out a significant amount of salary to get both under contract. The Canadiens could step in here and offer sheet Vince Dunn to a contract worth between $3 million to $4 million per season on a four or five-year deal. At this point, it would be something the Blues would not be able to match. That would put them above the salary cap ceiling and Pietrangelo is sure to cost at least double that amount.
For the Blues, knowing that a team swooping in with an offer sheet is a strong possibility, they may look to talk trade instead. The current compensation for an offer sheet in the range of where Dunn will likely sign is a second-round pick. Not a strong return for a promising player. Losing Dunn for a pick also doesn’t help the Blues cap situation in order to get Pietrangelo signed.
The Habs could jump in here and facilitate a trade much like they did for the Winnipeg Jets in the offseason of 2018. The Habs acquired Joel Armia and two draft picks to take on the contract of Steve Mason. While the Habs would like to target Jake Allen to become Price’s backup, he holds some value to the Blues and is coming off an impressive season. The more likely cap dump would be Alexander Steen and his $5.75 million cap hit. This clears out a ton of cap space for the Blues to help them sign Pietrangelo, and in return, the Habs acquire the rights to Vince Dunn.
What Does Dunn Bring to the Table
So why target Dunn? Well for starters, Dunn is the exact type of defenceman the Canadiens currently need. A mobile, puck-moving defenceman with the ability to quarterback the power play. Dunn is an extremely gifted skater, which is what defines his game. His excellent mobility allows him to join the rush to create offence. It allows him to be able to pinch on the blue-line but still has the ability to get back given his outstanding speed. He is also very difficult to beat wide due to his speed and positioning. His mobility allows him to be an effective player on both ends of the ice which causes a ton of problems for his opponents.
In terms of his puck skills, Dunn has excellent stickhandling abilities to go along with his outstanding mobility. This allows him to control the offence as he is able to get out of tough situations in his own end and lead the rush going the other way. His hockey sense is top-notch. He sees the ice very well and is able to find his teammates with a pass due to his excellent vision.
He also possesses the ability to score goals, given his quick and accurate wrist shot and one-timer. This has been proven by his 21 goals over the last two seasons(five of which are game-winners), despite playing less than 18 minutes per game.
Dunn’s ability to produce on the powerplay is also fantastic. Of his career 82 points, 27 of them have come with the man advantage. Nine of which were goals. His ability to contribute on both ends of the ice and both specialty teams makes him the perfect target for Bergevin.
It also doesn’t hurt that he has a Stanley Cup on his resume. Something no current Canadiens player has at the moment.
This is an area where Dunn truly shines. For anyone who does not have the privilege of watching Dunn play on a regular basis, these graphs will help prove how valuable he really is. We will compare Dunn to two other potential targets who are also extremely skilled defencemen in Mikhail Sergachev and Torey Krug.
The stats we looked at here are GF/60 (goals for per 60), GA/60 (goals against per 60), CF/60 (Corsi For per 60), CA/60 (Corsi Against per 60), xGF/60 (expected goals for per 60) and finally xGA/60 (expected goals against per 60). All these stats were calculated in 5v5 situations.
As you can see from the graph, Dunn’s advanced stats are right on par. Some even exceed the numbers put up by Sergachev and Krug. When it comes to the advanced stats, Krug actually comes in as the worst of the three. However, contract wise, he is certainly the one who would cost the most.
What’s even more impressive is when you take into account how much Dunn was held back in his role with the Blues. He was underused with the Blues averaging just 16:06 minutes of ice-time, which is actually less than his career average. However, he thrived when given the opportunity. In Montreal, Dunn would be utilized much better. Slotting in on the top pairing next to Shea Weber as well as potentially being utilized on the power play. This would allow Dunn to shine even more given the expanded role. His numbers would surely look even better because of this.
Dunn’s league-wide rankings in each stat in terms of defenceman who played at least 500 minutes are as follows:
- GF/60 – 29th
- GA/60 – 18th
- CF/60 – 70th
- CA/60 – 1st
- xGF/60 – 90th
- xGA/60 – 24th
No matter what route the Habs choose to take, there’s a deal to be had to acquire Vince Dunn. Recently I wrote about the prospect of the Habs reacquiring Mikhail Sergachev. And while that’s still a very viable option, it’s a much more costly option for the Habs. Dunn won’t cost as much in compensation, nor in cap space. So he may just be the better target for the Habs.
Using Evolving Hockey’s contract projection calculator (subscription required), Dunn is expected to get a two-year deal with a cap hit of $2.564 million. This would be the perfect number for the Habs if they were to trade for Dunn and then sign him. However, if they are going to submit an offer sheet, they’ll have to be a little more aggressive than that.
Regardless of if the Habs pay $2.564 million that Evolving Hockey projects or they go a little steeper even to the $4 million mark on a longer-term deal, the Habs will be getting a steal of a deal on such a promising young defenceman. He will certainly live up to whatever contract he gets. He would be a staple on the back end moving forward. Adding Dunn to the mix to go along with Alexander Romanov would solidify the Canadiens left side for years to come.