The Dave Hakstol extension was a matter of time. The Vince Dunn extension was a matter of patience.
The waiting is over on both accounts, for head coach and top pair defenseman, and in the matter of two days apart. Dunn and the Seattle Kraken agreed to a four year extension worth $7.35 million annually, ending a summer holding pattern for the next phase of the budding defenseman’s NHL career. The two parties would have met for an arbitration case on Monday.
Dunn, who decimated his restricted free agency status as the last significant piece remaining to be signed by the Kraken this offseason, proved by last year he’s worth every penny. The 26-year old, who earned a raise of over $3 million per season and nearly seven million in the span of three years, erupted for a breakout campaign by leading all Kraken defensemen with 14 goals and 64 points in 81 games, second on the team in points while leading the team in scoring for much of the second half of the season.
“I want nothing but to continue to wear that jersey and for many years to come,” Dunn told reporters in May during the routine locker room cleanout session to end the year, shortly after the Kraken were eliminated in game seven of the second round at Dallas.
“I’m all in, I love this organization, ever since I stepped foot in here. It’s been a new chapter in my career.”
Nobody had more assists on the Kraken than Dunn, with 50, on a team that was fourth best in the NHL with 3.5 goals per game. The fact he experienced a surge in his numbers justified his bump in ice time and an elevated role, playing all year with defenseman Adam Larsson. He led the Kraken with an average of 23:40 per game and controlled the point on the top power play unit, leading the team with 15 power play assists.
Dunn was selected by the Kraken in the expansion draft two years ago, coming off a 20-point season behind the production of Justin Faulk and Torey Krug. Coming into Seattle on a three million dollar pay raise, Dunn emerged as the team’s leader in points among defensemen, starting on the depth chart behind Mark Giordano but emerging as a top pair blueliner after Giordano was dealt to Toronto at the trade deadline.
What’s ahead now for Dunn is increased responsibility for a defensive core that will bring back his pairing partner Larsson, Justin Schultz, Jamie Oleksiak, and Will Borgen. The quartet all played vital roles in the 100 point season that landed the biggest point turnaround by a second year team out of expansion, and a first round upset of the Colorado Avalanche in seven games. Defensive metrics illustrated a rock solid foundation, where the team ranked fifth lowest in expected goals allowed at five-on-five, at 160 for the regular season.
While consensus remains they are a team without a proven “superstar,” the band will be back together, and on schedule. Dunn and Larsson will command top minutes, and their continued health will be paramount to another season of “playoff contender” status. Andre Burakovsky is on track to return from a torn groin for opening night. The Kraken will get the year two experience of Calder Trophy winner Matty Beniers, plus a ton of miles on contracts such as Jared McCann, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Oleksiak, Jaden Schwartz, and Philipp Grubauer. That’s enough of a foundation, the Kraken project, to sustain the losses of Carson Soucy, and depth forwards Ryan Donato, Daniel Sprong, and Morgan Geekie to free agency while raw but potential-filled forwards Shane Wright, Kole Lind, and defenseman Ryker Evans are expected to get a serious look in training camp.
Not to mention, the architect and the bench boss, general manager Ron Francis and Hakstol respectively, will be in the long-term picture with extensions already secured.
After extending Dunn, Lind, Borgen, Cale Fleury and signing newcomers Brian Dumoulin, Kailer Yamamoto and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare out of free agency, the Kraken have less than a million dollars of cap space remaining, according to capfriendly.com.
Dunn has 201 points in 421 career games with the Kraken and St. Louis Blues, and 18 points in 43 Stanley Cup Playoff games.