When the Seattle Kraken picked defenseman Vince Dunn over injured highly paid sniper Vladimir Tarasenko from the St. Louis Blues in this summer’s expansion draft, it appeared that the Kraken decided to stick to young players and a defensive mindset rather than betting on a high risk, high reward player like Tarasenko. You can understand General Manager Ron Francis not wanting to get suckered into a 29-year-old player with a bum shoulder making $7.5 million for this year and next.
I, for one, am a big fan of Dunn’s talent and what he can bring to a team.
That said, Dunn has not been the player that most expected since the regular season began. He came with a pretty high pedigree, even though he was 24 years old at the time of the selection. Dunn was a veteran of over 275 NHL games with 113 points (34 goals, 79 assists, 37 power play points), averaged 8.5 power play points per season and had a 2019 Stanley Cup ring on his finger. One-third of his total points came on the power play, so most people expected him to help run the Kraken’s first power play unit.
Even in the preseason, Dunn was second overall for NHL defensemen with three goals and led defensemen with two power play goals. He was right on track to pay dividends. Since the regular season started, he has been almost invisible, though. He has appeared in 11 games and has only four points (one goal, three assists) and none of his points have been on the power play. Dunn also had just one point (an assist) in his first seven regular season games. At times, Head Coach Dave Hakstol has played Dunn on the Kraken third defensive pairing, as well.
Clearly, this is not where he was expected to slot into the Kraken lineup and this is one of the big reasons the Kraken power play is last overall at a paltry 9.5%. He is not the only reason this power play has been anemic, though. The Kraken have some goal scorers, but no dangerous trigger man.
This begs the question, though: Would the Kraken have been better off selecting Tarasenko?
The St. Louis sniper currently has 11 points (fours goals, seven assists, four power play points, two game-winning goals) in 11 games this season. Of his 453 NHL points, 127 (28%) were on the man-advantage. He has a deadly shot and would be the perfect trigger man on this Kraken team.
He does come with those injury concerns, though. Tarasenko has had multiple shoulder surgeries and is probably just another awkward ding away from another. He is four years older and makes $3.5 million more than Dunn. He also has a lot of hard miles on his body.
It is easy to look back and second guess the decisions of the past, but I truly feel like Francis made the right decision in selecting the younger player with the potentially more promising future. Tarasenko might continue his production, but trends tell you that he will most likely decline, even if it is a slow decline.
Near-term success would be a nice bonus, but building a young, robust system needs to be the focus. Dunn still gives the Kraken a better chance long term, and his recent slump is almost certainly just a temporary speed bump. As fans, we needed to be reminded over and over that the Kraken have only been together for four months. Dunn has a bright future ahead.
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) October 24, 2021