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Vince Dunn’s extension in Seattle officially makes Quinn Hughes’ contract one of the best in the NHL
By Michael Liu6 months ago
Vince Dunn and the Seattle Kraken managed to avoid arbitration yesterday by agreeing to a contract, and it is not ideal for the team at all.
Though it is indisputable that Dunn deserves to be paid more as one of the Kraken’s top defenders, both the cap hit and term are causes for concern. His new deal’s $7.35M AAV makes him a higher earner than Nico Hischier, but the 4-year term takes Dunn right to UFA at the age of 30. Not good news for Seattle who will have to re-up at that point or risk losing him for nothing. Plenty of props to Dunn’s agent though, who’s clearly good at his job.
It’s a contract like Dunn’s that makes you appreciate Quinn Hughes’ deal with the Canucks all that much more. For just $500,000 more, Hughes is locked up until the 2026-27 season with the difference between the players being much more than just $500,000. Whereas the Kraken have themselves a very good top-4 defender, the Canucks have themselves a bonafide top-pairing defenceman.
On the surface level with points alone, it’s clear that these defencemen are in two different categories when it comes to their offence. Dunn had himself a career year in his contract season, racking up 14 goals and 50 assists for 64 points in 81 games. He was the second leading scorer on the Kraken behind Jared McCann and was thrust into all sorts of different situations en route to the franchise’s first playoff appearance.
2022-23 was the first time that Dunn posted a season point total over the 60-point mark. Hughes has already done it twice. In fact, Quinn Hughes has not had a single season where he wasn’t on pace to finish at 60 points or above. Previously, Dunn’s career-high point total in a season was 35. Even during the shortened COVID year of 2020-21, Hughes racked up 41 points in 56 games.
Obviously, defencemen cannot only be judged based on points. If that were the case, teams would be falling over themselves to acquire the services of Erik Karlsson. But even when looking at their games holistically, there isn’t a single aspect where Dunn is head and shoulders above Hughes.
Take penalty killing, for instance. A fan of another team could be forgiven for thinking that Hughes rarely plays on the Canucks PK. But did you know that Hughes racked up 103:16 TOI killing penalties, on ice for 5 short-handed goals? And with how heavily used Dunn was by the Kraken, one might assume that he was one of their major penalty killers.
Dunn only played 49:03 on the penalty kill.
Hughes has been just as versatile, if not more in his deployments in comparison to Dunn. At 5v5 play, the Canucks defender received 51.31% of his shift starts in the offensive zone and 52.04% of his faceoff starts in the offensive zone. On the flip side, Dunn got significantly more favourable starts, 63.72% shift starts in the offensive zone and 63.51% faceoff starts in the offensive zone. This by no means indicates that Dunn was sheltered, but what it does suggest is that Quinn Hughes was given more responsibility in his own end when compared to Dunn.
There’s the other point of Hughes being able to carry his defensive partners. Whereas Dunn benefits from having the ever-solid, mercurial Adam Larsson at his side, Hughes has been slotted with a revolving door of pairing partners, having Ethan Bear, Luke Schenn, Noah Juulsen, Tyler Myers, Kyle Burroughs all spend over 100 minutes with him at 5v5 play. He’s made them all look passable in the top-4, elevating his game and theirs at the same time regardless of how skilled they actually are. Meanwhile, Dunn only spent 182:13 away from Larsson. While it’s something that the Kraken can afford to do and the Canucks cannot, it also shows that Hughes can play with whoever while Dunn remains untested without his preferred partner.
If there is one thing that can be knocked on for the Vancouver defenceman, it’s how a greater percentage of Hughes’ production comes on the powerplay in comparison to Dunn’s. Hughes spent 320:46 on the man advantage, racking up 34 points while Dunn only had 229:40 minutes to put up 15 points. But even here, the argument can be made that it isn’t so much Hughes relying on the powerplay to generate his production. It’s the fact that Hughes makes such an excellent powerplay quarterback while Dunn is an option for Seattle but not the facilitator. The top-end offensive vision that Hughes sports coupled with his skating allows him to be the one that runs the man-advantage. Dunn, on the other hand, doesn’t have that clear individual skill to justify dominating the puck on the powerplay.
None of this is to say that Vince Dunn is a bad defenceman, or is underserving of the contract that he signed. He is very clearly an important member of Seattle’s top-4 now and in the future. But for the price that he signed at, it’s hard not to draw a comparison to the star defenceman just a couple miles north on the I5/Hwy 99. Quinn Hughes making only $500,000 more cap hit than Dunn is absurd given the difference of value the pair have. With the cap anticipated to rise to $92 million for 2025-26, having such an elite and important member of your defence locked up to a value contract can allow Vancouver to build with more flexibility. Factoring in all of this is that Hughes is 23, while Dunn is 26. Both will reach free agency in 2026-27.
Which would you rather be paying the big dollars to, the 27-year-old number 1 defenceman, or the 30-year-old top-4 option?
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