The St. Louis Blues season has ended in a less than desirable fashion. After losing in the second round to the Colorado Avalanche, the team is left with many questions surrounding key players such as goaltender Ville Husso and forwards David Perron and Vladimir Tarasenko. The group covering the Blues here at The Hockey Writers took some time to reflect on a few questions surrounding the season and the upcoming offseason.
On a Scale of 1-10, How Would You Rate This Season in Terms of Success? Why Do You Give It That Answer?
Ethan Carter (EC) – My rating for the season is a solid 8.2/10. They bounced back from a transition year in 2020-21 and re-shaped the roster with the additions of Saad and Buchnevich. Their defensive unit still struggled, but they upped their scoring in a BIG way. They were able to fly past 100 points with a lackluster season from Jordan Binnington. Their Cup window remains open due to some moves by general manager Doug Armstrong.
Stephen Ground (SG) – I would probably rate this season about an 8. The Blues were a vastly different team this season, with a hugely restructured forward group, and they finished second in the league in goals scored with nine different 20-plus goal scorers. Their identity shifted in a big way this season, but they didn’t show signs of struggling with the transition. They made it to the second round of the playoffs and, even without their red hot goaltender, made it to the closing seconds of Game 6 against arguably the best team in the league. Hard to be too disappointed.
Mike Meyer (MM) – The Blues proved to be more of a handful this season than anticipated. They finished ninth overall in the NHL standings, third in goals scored per game (3.77), 11th in goals allowed per game (2.91), a power play that ranked second in the league at 27 percent, and a penalty kill that finished fifth at 84.1 percent. Not to mention the combined efforts in net of Jordan Binnington and Husso. If the team had a deeper defensive unit that provided more experience and skill, the team may have challenged for the Western Conference title this season. Overall, I give the season an 8.5/10.
Who Is Your Standout Performer of the Season?
EC – My standout performer of the season is easily Vladimir Tarasenko, who bounced back after two tough seasons. He requested a trade in the summer, didn’t get his wish, yet came back with a career-high point total (82) and 34 goals. Shoutout to Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou as well, who’ve cemented themselves as the offensive future of the franchise.
SG – It’s hard to pick from all the impressive choices. I’m going to give Vladimir Tarasenko the nod. After a brutal journey with several shoulder surgeries and bad seasons, he asked for a trade only to learn that nobody wanted him. With every reason to come into the season with a negative attitude, he had exactly the right attitude and turned it on, overcoming all the obstacles to prove that he’s still one of the best goal scorers in the League, even managing a career year in points. I think it’s criminal he’s not a finalist for the Bill Masterton Trophy.
MM – My biggest standout performer this year comes as a tie between Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. The emergence and playmaking ability of Thomas have proven to be useful down the stretch with injuries to key forwards and allowing the team forward units some breathing room with Thomas taking some responsibility that has not been given to him in the past. Kyrou, on the other hand, had his coming-out party during the All-Star break after winning the fastest skater award and scoring 27 goals and 75 points in 74 games this season. The future is looking bright with the two forwards slated as organizational pillars moving forward.
Who Is the Player That Needs the Most Improvement?
EC – Brayden Schenn and Colton Parayko are clear-cut choices here.
SG – It’s a little unfair, but I think the player with the biggest question marks coming out of the season is Colton Parayko. He really looked bad in Game 6. He looks inconsistent too often. He has flashes of brilliance, but he certainly isn’t the true No. 1 centerpiece many hoped he would be. And now, entering the first year of an insanely long contract extension, there’s a lot of pressure on his shoulders to prove that he deserves it.
MM – A forward that only played half of the season with the team and was sent down due to performance, Klim Kostin. The Russian has yet to show that he can perform at the NHL level and could still need more time to adjust. His performance during the regular season at both the NHL and American Hockey League (AHL) levels has left plenty to be desired. He will need to take the offseason as a launching ramp into a preseason that leaves the front office and coaching staff no choice but to keep him in the NHL.
What Do You Feel Is the Biggest Concern Heading Into the Offseason?
EC – Finding a left-handed defenseman next to Parayko if Leddy is gone.
Related: Blues’ Tarasenko Should Win Masterton Award
SG – I think the Blues need to make decisions with a two-year focus in mind. After next season, they have to give new deals to whatever combination of Tarasenko, O’Reilly, Thomas, and Kyrou they want to keep. Perron is free this season. Their forward group could look very different in two years, so Armstrong needs to be smart. If they think they can make all those guys fit, great. But if they need to cut Perron loose or trade Tarasenko to keep the rest, I think they have to do that.
MM – Goaltending will need to be addressed, with the inconsistency of Binnington in net, along with the uncertainty of either a tandem partner or backup.
Should the Team Make Any Trades? If So, Who Do You Think Should Be Dealt and Why?
EC – I think there are a few left-handed defensemen that they could trade for, and if they move on from a player, Ivan Barbashev is a player they could move. His value is higher than ever.
SG – Building on my last answer, I think you have to decide now whether Tarasenko is a long-term part of your team, and, if not, you have to trade him this summer. He will have too much value after last season, with just one season left on his deal, to let him join the likes of Pietrangelo and Schwartz as players who walk away as an unrestricted free agent.
MM – The Blues will have multiple decisions to make when it comes to their blue line. There is a multitude of players along the left side, including Torey Krug, Marco Scandella, Scott Perunovich, Nikko Mikkola, and Nick Leddy, should he come back, that all will want and deserve playing time. Scandella is the likely option that gets moved this offseason. He is owed $3.25 million for the next two seasons and has a modified-no-trade clause allowing him to block trades to seven teams in the league. The team has just under 10 million dollars in cap space and will need every dollar they can to help keep their team competitive heading into next season.
Do You Think Tarasenko Will Be on the 22-23 Roster?
EC – Yes. Unless he still badly wants out, I don’t see Armstrong making that trade without a huge price tag.
SG – I would say no. I think trading him gives them so much more flexibility with the salary cap and could potentially give them nice future pieces that they could grow or flip in a trade for a different impact player (say a Matthew Tkachuk or a Jakob Chychrun). It’s certainly a possibility, but right now, I’d say I’m 60/40 that he goes.
MM – I believe 100 percent that Tarasenko will be back next season. No doubts.
What About Perron? If So, What Will Be a Good Contract for Him?
EC – Yes, it’s hard for me to believe that they will let Perron go again, especially after his playoff brilliance. A good contract for the Blues is 2-3 years with an AAV of $5M to 6.5M.
SG – I think Perron will be back. He means too much to the team, he wants to be here, and you can get him for too little to let him walk. Plus, keeping him probably helps you keep O’Reilly, which is hugely important. I believe Perron could get at least three years at $4 million per on the open market, so if you could somehow talk him down to two years or $3 million per, that’d be a huge win and a nice hometown discount.
MM – If the Blues are able to get David Perron on a three-year contract for $4 million per season, it would be a win-win scenario. He will have the opportunity to stay in St. Louis, and the Blues will have a player that has been aging like fine wine under a very reasonable contract. The key to that contract would be if a no-trade clause would be added or not.
Do You Think the Blues Bring Back Husso? What Do You Think Will Be a Good Contract for Him? If He Doesn’t Remain in St. Louis, Where Do You Think He Lands?
EC – I don’t think they make that move, as it seems as if he’ll get a lot on the open market. A good deal for the Blues would be anything under $3M per season. I think he ends up with the Edmonton Oilers, depending on how their season ends.
SG – I don’t think Husso will be back. His playoff performance might damage his value on the open market, but it’s a weak year for goalies, and there are always teams in need. Husso is just 27 and has the pedigree of a top goalie prospect, so I think some team will take a chance on him. I’d look at the New Jersey Devils, the Arizona Coyotes, and the Detroit Red Wings as potential landing spots.
MM – As mentioned earlier, the team has a puzzle this offseason and cap space is limited to help this situation. Husso is a goaltender that can earn a hefty pay raise with a different franchise should he wish to leave. However, there are limited options that he could go to if he wishes to go to a team in a ‘win-now’ mode. The team could potentially bring him back on a one or two-year contract if he wanted to wait out a scenario that offered a different pool of teams to play for.