In Game 6 of the SCF, when the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Nashville Predators 2-0 in Game 6 to clinch back to back Stanley Cup Championships, the NHL offseason was officially under way. The offseason provides mountains of speculation until moves are made and the offseason is always interesting. But this year, for all the NHL, the offseason is going to be a little different. That’s because each team will be losing one player on June 21st because of the expansion draft, for the new team the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Here’s a guide to the entire offseason for the St. Louis Blues.
Colton Parayko Saga
Parayko is a current restricted free agent, and the Blues front office is currently trying to work out a long-term extension to keep 55 with the Blues for years to come. Parayko is only 24 years old, and has steadily gotten better throughout his two years in the NHL. He has drawn severe interest from multiple NHL clubs, and teams will be able to offer Parayko offer sheets, but the Blues have already announced that they will match any offer sheet offered to Parayko. It will be an ongoing process but the Blues are going to do everything in their power to keep him in St. Louis.
If you hate pure offseason speculation, avoid this section. We are only just over a weel into the offseason, but the Blues have already come up in trade rumors. Among the players the Blues are reportedly interested in, includes Ilya Kovalchuk, who is eyeing an NHL return, center Matt Duchene from the Colorado Avalanche, and winger Jordan Eberle from the Edmonton Oilers. There’s no doubt that the Blues are in dire need of a true number one center. They also need scoring help alongside Vladimir Tarasenko, because their offense doesn’t offer a true one-two punch in the scoring department. Any of the listed three could help with scoring, but the asking prices for them will not be cheap.
The Blues have also been in talks with the Vegas Golden Knights on taking on the bad contract of Jori Lehtera. He’s set to make $9.7 million over the next two seasons. But Lehtera’s production has dropped by 10-12 points every season since he had 44 points in his first NHL season back in 2014-15. The Blues would have to include draft picks most likely for Vegas to take on Jori and his contract. It is not definite that it will happen, seeing that we are closing in on one day away from the expansion draft, but it’s a possibility. The Blues do have a decent surplus in draft picks and prospects, so watch out for some deals to go down this offseason.
The expansion draft is scheduled for Wednesday, June 21st, and Vegas will get to select one player from every NHL team to fill their roster. The Blues recently released their protected list. The players they protected are as follows:
Forwards: Vladimir Tarasenko, Paul Stastny, Alexander Steen, Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Ryan Reaves
Defensemen: Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson
Goalie: Jake Allen
Here is the list of players that the Blues will expose and Vegas could select from:
On a sidenote, Adidas will be responsible for supplying the NHL jerseys next season, and some changes will be made to a few NHL teams’ jerseys. The Blues jersey has a slight change, as the number on the back of the jersey is white.
The NHL Draft will take place on June 23-24th, just two days after the expansion draft and NHL Awards Show. It will be a few jam-packed days in the NHL. Here’s a list of the picks the Blues have:
1st Round Pick #20
1st Round Pick #27 (via WSH)
2nd Round Pick #51
4th Round Pick #113
5th Round Pick #130 (via BUF)
6th Round Pick #175
7th Round Pick #206
As aforementioned, don’t be surprised to see the Blues move any of their top three picks (or more) in the draft in order to acquire more established players or get rid of bad contracts to Vegas.
The free agent open market begins on July 1st, and unlike last year, the Blues don’t have many notable names as unrestricted free agents. They only have one player from the main roster who is a UFA, which is fourth liner Scottie Upshall. Upshall, who will turn 34 in October, was a valuable penalty killer and role player for the Blues the last couple seasons. But due to the surplus of prospects the Blues have and possible transactions they may or may not make this offseason, the Blues will likely not have any more room for Upshall on the roster.
Here’s a list of the remaining UFA’s the Blues have:
LW Kenny Agostino, LW Andrew Agozzino, D Chris Butler, LW Brad Malone, and D Reid McNeil.
Agostino was named the AHL’s regular season MVP after totaling 24 goals and 83 points overall in 65 games. He played in seven games with the Blues in a stretch in February, where he scored one goal and had two assists in the short stretch. Agozzino was the third leading scorer for the Chicago Wolves, totaling 54 points. Chris Butler, who has seen time with multiple NHL clubs, served as the captain of the Wolves this past season. Butler, the St. Louis native, has served as a valuable veteran in the minors and has been a steadily reliable 7th defenseman for the Blues. It would be nice to have Butler back but there’s no doubt that he could get more playing time with another NHL team. Brad Malone was acquired in the Kevin Shattenkirk trade, and had eight points in 19 games with the Wolves. Finally, Reid McNeil, who is regarded as a defensive defenseman is also up for free agency.
The Blues don’t typically make free agent splashes. The most recent “big” offseason signing they made was Paul Stastny three years ago. The Blues as you all know very well, need a true number one center. The 2017 free agent class at the center position has a few notable names, but none that are really jaw dropping per say. Set to be free agents include Joe Thornton, Mike Fisher, Martin Hanzal, Nick Bonino, and Sam Gagner. Among those, Thornton and Gagner were the only players to tally at least 50 points last season.
If you’ve reached this point, congrats, you just read a near 1300 word offseason preview for the Blues. Here is a more concise and league based offseason schedule to narrow everything down:
Doug Armstrong and the Blues front office aren’t known for making big moves in the offseason, as you all know very well. But all signs have been pointing that they will do something this summer to improve the roster. For a club that was established in 1967, hasn’t won a Stanley Cup, and haven’t even reached the Stanley Cup Finals since 1970, something has to give. The people of St. Louis have supported the Blues whole heartedly since their arrival, and are yet to be rewarded with Lord Stanley. They are greeted with the same ending to the season every year, a bitter reminder that they once again fall short of winning it all. The Blues boast a solid core of players on the offensive and defensive side, along with an exceptional goaltender. Are the Blues one big transaction from reaching the pinnacle? If only we knew what the future held. It is going to be a long, interesting summer, and Arch City Sports will have all your St. Louis Blues offseason coverage. Stay tuned.