This post is part of Blues Day on PHT…
When considering the future of the St. Louis Blues, especially looking at their Cap Friendly page, the immediate thought is that they’re really “locked in” to their current core group.
So … let’s start this Blues cap analysis by looking at that very core group.
Mostly ripe core
As of this moment, nine key players are signed through at least the next three seasons at a total cap cost of $47.425 million:
Vladimir Tarasenko: $7.5M through 2022-23
Alexander Steen: $5.75M though 2020-21
Jaden Schwartz: $5.35M through 2020-21
Patrik Berglund: $3.85M through 2021-22
Vladimir Sobotka: $3.5M through 2019-20
Alex Pietrangelo: $6.5M through 2019-20
Colton Parayko: $5.5M through 2021-22
Jake Allen: $4.35M through 2020-21
Now, there are some quibbles with that group.
Steen, at 33, might see some steep regression. Some might be a bit underwhelmed at Sobotka and/or Berglund, at least when it comes to such term.
Even those issues are debatable, though, and the overall look is quite intriguing. You might grimace at the idea that $7.5M is “cheap,” but that really might be fair in assessing Tarasenko. Since 2013-14 (his first full season), Tarasenko scored the fifth-most goals in the NHL with 137. Only Alex Ovechkin scored more during the past three seasons.
Allen seemed like he was getting a respectable deal early on, but considering how his numbers skyrocketed once Mike Yeo replaced Ken Hitchcock, that $4.35M could be a Cam Talbot-ish bargain.
It stings to lose Kevin Shattenkirk, but for all we know, Parayko may eclipse Pietrangelo as the Blues’ best defenseman before their contracts expire. Considering how nice a bargain Pietrangelo is, St. Louis has some very good things going for them in the high-end.
Speaking of that defense …
Things get more interesting when you consider contracts that will be up sooner.
In particular, there could be decisions to make after 2018-19, at least if GM Doug Armstrong isn’t as proactive as he tends to be. Here are some notable defensemen who only have two years left: Jay Bouwmeester ($5.4M), Carl Gunnarsson ($2.9M), Robert Bortuzzo ($1.15M), and Nate Prosser ($650K). Joel Edmundson, meanwhile, is slated to be an RFA after this season.
Edmundson seems like a keeper, but beyond that, the Blues must ask some tough questions about players like Bouwmeester. J-Bo already reached the 1,000 games plateau, and he’s just 33.
Such choices might end up being tough, yet at least the Blues have options. That’s especially true if Vince Dunn eventually makes the leap and Jordan Schmaltz can reach some of that first-round potential.
Who else will join the core?
Considering his $7M price tag, Paul Stastny hasn’t always lived up to his billing in St. Louis, placing him under pressure to earn a new deal with his current contract expiring after 2017-18. Even so, there’s also pressure on the Blues to decide what to do with Stastny; what would be a reasonable price to re-sign him or would they move him for assets much like they did with Kevin Shattenkirk?
Robby Fabbri is another key contract year to watch.
The Blues would honestly be smart to sign the 21-year-old for cheap, as there have been more than a few flashes of brilliance already with Fabbri. If they don’t, though, the 21st pick of the 2014 NHL Draft could easily parallel Viktor Arvidsson – in production, if not style – this coming season.
A greedier Blues fan might be a little frustrated to see the team take the careful approach over the last few years, including letting David Backes and Troy Brouwer walk.
To an extent, St. Louis seems to lack that “surplus” scorer that really drives pre-season hype through the roof. It’s also up to Mike Yeo to build on the work Ken Hitchcock left behind.
Still, when you consider the lack of albatross contracts and the handful of good-to-brilliant deals on the books, the Blues seem like they’re in a pretty good place. The question is: can this group do better than that?