The St. Louis Blues season came to an unfortunate close a couple nights ago, as they fell 4-2 in the Western Conference Finals series against the San Jose Sharks. It’s apparent that the Blues have several big decisions ahead of them, especially with the salary cap changes this offseason. This article will detail a few decisions the Blues should make this offseason.
1. Cut/Release Jay Bouwmeester
When it came down to it, Bouwmeester was not good in the playoffs. He turned the puck over several times in the defensive zone and struggled to pass the puck effectively. He also looked very slow. Fact of the matter is that Bouwmeester will be 33 years old by next season and at this point, is nothing more than a liability for the Blues. However, Bouwmeester is signed through the 2018-19 season and is due $16.2 million from now until then (5.4 million a year). If the Blues choose to keep him, they must get him to restructure his contract. But I think it would be best if the Blues could just get rid of him if possible.
2. Trade/Buy out Kevin Shattenkirk
Shattenkirk is only under contract with the Blues for next season, and will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2016-17 season. He is owed nearly $4.3 million for this next season. Shattenkirk is easily replaceable and the Blues could get a somewhat decent player or draft pick in return if they choose to trade him. Rumor has it though that the Blues will potentially buy out Shatty’s contract and he will become a free agent this summer.
3. Re-sign Troy Brouwer and David Backes
These are the biggest two free agents the Blues have upcoming. Brouwer’s attitude and performance proved huge in the playoffs for the Blues and was a major contributor for the Blues. In 20 playoff games, Brouwer tallied eight goals and five assists. No one will forget his Game 7 goal against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blues need him back.
Backes also proved this past postseason that he should remain in the Blue note. He was the heart and soul of this team, at least through the first two rounds. Backes had seven goals and seven assists in the 20 playoff games. However, I feel like Backes shouldn’t be the captain this next season. He is a great guy and great player, but him being the captain hasn’t gotten the team very far. I say upgrade Alex Pietrangelo to captain and give Vladimir Tarasenko the other assistant captain.
4. Sign a goal scorer
Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m going to say Steven Stamkos. As much as we’d all love to see Stamkos in St. Louis, it probably won’t happen, so let’s not get our hopes up. However, the Blues need another player who can score over 20, maybe even close to 30 goals or more. They need another player who can score on a consistent basis other than Vladdy. Some names in the free agent market this summer that jumped out to me were Kyle Okposo, Milan Lucic, or Loui Eriksson.
5. Don’t Hire Ken Hitchock (Optional)
I believe this should happen. Hitchcock is not the coach who will lead this team to the cup in future years in my opinion. That being said, there aren’t much better options out there in the head coach market. A couple of the top options on the market currently include Randy Carlyle, the coach of the 2007 Anaheim Ducks who won the cup that year and Todd Richards, who is the winningest coach in Columbus Blue Jackets history and also coaches in a similar style to Hitchcock. Unless the Blues see fit with either of these coaches or someone else, the Blues might be stuck with Hitch.