Since our last update, the St. Louis Blues have been consistent (and somewhat predictable) in how they have handled several of their free agents. We wouldn’t label any of the club’s decisions surprising given the current situation with the hunt still on for a new owner, but each signing is worth giving a bit of individual analysis.
AHL talent, NHL dud. Such has been the case for Hensick since he has been with the St. Louis organization, but he has demonstrated enough talent that the Blues have given him a new two-year contract. Hensick skated in just a handful (13) of games at the NHL level last season, scoring one goal and adding two assists. Though he was given an opportunity given the club’s rash of injuries, Hensick never really gelled with other players on the ice. Often he looked lost and out of place during his shifts, like a player that quite obviously was outmatched by the pace and skill he was facing.
However, at the AHL level, Hensick put on quite an offensive show with the Peoria Rivermen. Here he scored 21 goals and 48 assists through 59 games, finishing the year as one of the best weapons on the Rivermen roster. It remains to be seen what Hensick’s role will be with the Blues in the upcoming season, but he could be a useful part if he is able to put his AHL talent to work at the NHL level.
Despite having one of the most fun names on the St. Louis roster, Nikita Nikitin shined in his rookie season and earned himself a new one-year contract as a result. At 24, Nikitin broke into the league later than most prospects but proved over the course of 41 games that his additional experience had served him well.
Nikitin wasn’t much of an offensive threat, scoring just one goal and eight assists, but he demonstrated a sense of confidence that other skaters, especially in their first year, might have lacked.
The Russian defender did well filling in for the team’s top defenders while they were injured, but 2011-12 should see him in a role with less stress, giving him the opportunity to further grow and develop as an NHL defenseman.
The only unrestricted free agent the Blues have decided to come to terms with, Chris Porter’s deal can be described as one of depth. The forward signed a one-year, two-way contract that guarantees a $600,000 salary at the NHL level with a $105,000 salary at the AHL level.
Last season, injuries to numerous skaters called Porter into action in 45 games with the Blues. He tallied three goals, four assists and a plus/minus rating of (-4) as he mostly acted as a role player rather than difference maker.
Hopefully the Blues will be able to keep the majority of their NHL roster healthy (knock on wood) and Porter will just be used as a sub as necessary.
Unfortunately, injuries played a role in Sobotka’s 2010-11 season but his gritty attitude and work ethic earned the forward a new three-year deal worth $3.9 million. When Jay McClement left for Colorado in the deal that brought Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart to St. Louis, Sobotka slid over and took over the role as the team’s “defensive forward”, especially on the penalty kill. Small stature aside, Sobotka plays a big game that has proven to be very valuable when the Blues try to put a clamp on the opposition’s attack.
Despite the four new contracts mentioned above, the Blues still need to make some pretty big decisions before the market for free agents opens on July 1st. The main focus is on T.J. Oshie, but the team needs to come to a conclusion on restricted free agents Matt D’Agostini, B.J. Crombeen and Ryan Reaves. On the unrestricted side, the Blues have Ty Conklin and Cam Janssen, though neither player is expected to return to the Blues for the 2011-12 season.
For a complete list of the team’s transactions this summer, follow along at FrozenNotes.com.