The St. Louis Blues have had quite the successful offseason thus far. On the first night of the NHL Draft, Doug Armstrong and the Blues traded Jori Lehtera and some draft picks for Brayden Schenn. Then, they dealt Ryan Reaves and a 2nd round draft pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 1st round pick and forward Oskar Sundqvist. Armstrong also had a solid draft, to top off the eventful two days of the draft. But the Blues might not be done in terms of bettering their roster this offseason.
Free agency opens up this Saturday, July 1st. Players are free to accept and sign contracts with teams whenever they choose. The Blues historically are not a team who tries to build through free agency, but if they can make it work with their cap space, they could add a key piece to the team this summer. With a team that is experienced but very youthful for the most part, a veteran presence on the team could be monumental.
If you take a look at the Blues core players, a lot of them are 27 or younger. Guys like Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Robby Fabbri, Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Joel Edmundson, etc. While they do have some experienced NHL vets like Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny, Kyle Brodziak etc., the Blues adding a veteran that still produces at quality level would not hurt.
The Blues could potentially be considering bringing in either Justin Williams or Joe Thornton, both UFA’s. Williams, a winger, will be 36 come October. He has won three Stanley Cups in his long NHL tenure, and has hit the 40-point mark in six of his last seven seasons (only he season he didn’t in that span was due to the shortened season). Williams is known for his playoff scoring as well, as he has recorded 94 points in 140 career playoff games. As any seasoned veteran would, Williams is looking to join a team that can compete for a cup right now. He reportedly has a list of 10 or fewer teams that he’d be interested in playing for. No word on if the Blues are on his list. Williams was a $3.250M cap hit for the Washington Capitals last season.
With Patrik Berglund being sidelined for the first 2-3 months of the season due to a shoulder injury, this could open the door for the Blues to at least take a look at the idea of adding C Joe Thornton to the team. Thornton turns 38 this Sunday, but despite his age, still produces. Jumbo Joe had 50 points last season with the San Jose Sharks. In his 20 years of playing, Thornton has only recorded less than 50 points three times. The first two came in his first two years in the league back in 1997-98 and 1998-99, and then in 2012-13, when the NHL season was shortened to 48 games because of the lockout.
Thornton has also had a faceoff win percentage of 50% or more every year since the NHL started recording the stat in the 2007-08 season. Thornton was a $6.750M cap hit last season. But Thornton is nearing the end of his career and has still not won a cup, so he reportedly may take a pay cut on a one or to year deal to join a contending team. Blues beatwriter Jeremy Rutherford stated that “putting a feeler out on Joe Thornton” would make sense for the Blues.
It’s no guarantee that the Blues will go after either of these two players. Their first priority is to sign Parayko to a long-term deal. Then, and if the Blues can make it work with their cap space, may go after one of these two. There’s no doubt that either Williams or Thornton’s presence on the ice and in the locker room would be tremendously valuable to the team. Once the Blues lock up Parayko, if a one or two-year deal could be made for Williams or Thornton, the Blues should absolutely go for it.