The St. Louis Blues have a big offseason of decisions to make. It’s not a franchise-altering offseason, but there are some important decisions for general manager Doug Armstrong to make.
A lot of the decisions are based on the upcoming 2022-23 season, while some revolve around the future of the franchise beyond the next season. From the draft to free agency and trades, the Blues will have to be active in all three phases of the offseason.
1. Draft the Right Player in the First Round
This is easier said than done, but there will be an opportunity to fetch an elite talent with the 23rd pick. With their previous two first-round picks, the Blues took two forwards in Jake Neighbours and Zachary Bolduc. There will be tons of different prospects that the Blues could go with, but the decision will remain tough with the uncertainty of this draft.
The five players that make a lot of sense for the Blues are forwards Isaac Howard, Jagger Firkus, Filip Mesar, and defensemen Seamus Casey and Lian Bischel. Those names will be mentioned a lot for the Blues on draft night, and rightfully so. This isn’t the deepest of drafts, so I wouldn’t put it past them to trade out of this spot. The best option may ultimately be trading the pick since the unpredictability with this draft is off the charts. If they do make the selection, I would say that Firkus or Casey would be the two best options for the franchise if they’re available.
2. Re-Sign David Perron
The number one priority this offseason in terms of retaining a player should be a new deal for Perron. He’s one of the cornerstones of the forward group with his goal-scoring and leadership skills. They have already traded him once and lost him to the Vegas Golden Knights with their expansion draft in 2017. I don’t see any reason as to why Perron shouldn’t finish out his career in St. Louis, as it makes far too much sense.
Since returning to the Blues after one season in Vegas, Perron has 221 points in 251 games, including three 20-goal seasons. He’s been a phenomenal fit with Ryan O’Reilly on the top line and has scored some of the biggest goals over his past four seasons here. He also has 20 playoff goals in 47 games despite not playing in the 2021 playoffs. He had nine goals in 12 playoff games in the 2022 playoffs, being a model of consistency for the team during their run to the second round.
As for a new deal, the ability to give an extra year or two on the contract to save some salary cap space is ideal. He’ll be 34 years old when the 2022-23 season begins, so anything above four years makes zero sense. A four-year deal with a cap hit of around $4.5 to $5.25 million would be ideal, in my view, even though he could certainly fetch more money on the open market.
3. Trade Marco Scandella
This is an absolute no-brainer, the Blues have to move on from Scandella this summer. With a cap hit of $3.275 million and two seasons left on the deal, the time is now. He does have a seven-team no-trade list, but I don’t think that will get in the way of a deal getting done. He had a run of 11 games after the trade to St. Louis in 2019-20, which got him the four-year extension. It has not worked out in any way since signing that contract, and that’s obvious by the numbers.
He hasn’t worked well with Colton Parayko, and the main key for this offseason should be finding someone that does. The Blues may have to retain some of the salary cap hit on Scandella’s deal to move him, but that would be worth it at this point. There is no scenario where he should be on the 2022-23 Blues roster, and that is obvious to just about everyone.
4. Resolve the Vladimir Tarasenko Situation for the Future
If the Blues were ever going to trade Tarasenko, it would be during this offseason. He has one year left on his deal at $7.5 million, and I’d be surprised if the Blues extended him. He’s coming off of the best season of his career in terms of points, having 82 in 75 games. The Blues have multiple major contracts to figure out after the 2022-23 season, so figuring out what to do with Tarasenko should happen this summer.
The first option would be to let it ride out during the 2022-23 season and figure out whether to re-sign him or let him walk as an unrestricted free agent (UFA). This feels like the most probable option because the Blues have a ton of other moves to figure out, and this is one that they may just wait on. Giving Tarasenko another prove-it season to earn his next contract still makes sense, even after a stellar performance last season.
The second option is to extend him and make him a Blue for life. This option would be great and all, but I have no clue what an extension would look like. He’s likely the fourth priority to extend for the Blues; there are three above him that have expiring deals after next season as well. He will be 31 years old in December, so an extension of four to six years would be acceptable, as long as the cap hit stays in a reasonable spot.
The third and final option is to trade him in a blockbuster deal. I have no idea how this would set up, and the Blues would be looking to get an elite player to replace him. If things get wild for the Boston Bruins and David Pastrnak requests a trade, that’s something for the Blues to explore. It seems to me like a trade would have happened last summer if it was going to, and the asking price on him now must be through the roof. My guess is that he stays put, and Armstrong will reassess the situation after next season, but I also believe that the Blues will explore a trade for him and see what is out there.
5. Extend Three Key Forwards
I teased it in the Tarasenko section, but the Blues will have three key forwards with expiring deals after the 2022-23 season. The list is O’Reilly, Robert Thomas, and Jordan Kyrou, three of the best players on the team. There is zero doubt in my mind that all three of them have earned extensions.
The Blues can’t lose another captain in free agency, and O’Reilly plays a style that should age well. He doesn’t rely on speed or scoring as much as a lot of players do in this version of the NHL. He had a down offensive season in 2021-22, with 58 points in 78 games, but he woke up during the playoffs. He had seven goals and 12 points in 12 playoff games, leading the way alongside Perron. O’Reilly’s extension would likely be four to six years with a cap hit of around $6 to $7 million if I had to throw a guess out there.
As for Kyrou and Thomas, they both had breakout seasons in 2021-22. They should both receive similar extensions, with the term being the key component of the deal. I would not be surprised to see either of them sign a bridge deal, and that would be around three or four years of term with a high cap hit. They both need to be re-signed. The numbers could get tricky, but it has to get done.
6. Find a Quality Defensive Partner for Parayko
This has been a major need for the last few seasons. Ever since the unfortunate situation that forced Jay Bouwmeester to retire, Parayko has not had a reliable partner. The market for a left-handed defenseman should be stout, with options like Jakob Chychrun, Ivan Provorov, and Travis Sanheim as trade fits. For free agency, bringing back Nick Leddy or signing Nikita Zadorov could make sense as well.
The Blues do have the assets to make a big swing on a trade, but cap implications could arise as well. My number one option would be Provorov, who has three years left at $6.75 million. That contract isn’t ideal, but I believe the Blues are more likely to get a favorable deal with the Philadelphia Flyers than any other team. Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher has shown an inability to not get enough assets in return for quality players, and Provorov could be next.
As for Chychrun, the price will be enormous. He’s just 24 years old with three years left on his deal at $4.6 million. Arizona Coyotes general manager is Bill Armstrong, who spent time with the Blues from 2004 to 2020. He knows a lot of the Blues’ top prospects and would want some of the key ones in a trade for Chychrun. I don’t think the Blues would be comfortable with giving up that much for Chychrun, so a run at Provorov could be their move.
With Leddy and Zadorov, the price could be higher than it should be in free agency. Leddy likely won’t return at his current asking price, and the Blues would be wise to move forward without him. I like the Zadorov fit, as he’s coming off of a good season with the Calgary Flames, totaling 22 points in 74 games and a plus/minus of plus-11. He made $3.75 million last season and could be looking for around $4 million with more term this time around. I believe that Zadorov is the right free agency option and Provorov is the right trade target. We’ll see if the club agrees.
7. Find a Veteran Backup Goaltender
The Blues will likely lose Ville Husso on the open market, and that is fine by me. I don’t think that Charlie Lindgren is the proper option to succeed him as the backup behind Jordan Binnington. A veteran with experience and a solid contract is the best option, in my view. The first two names that come to mind are Marc-Andre Fleury and Braden Holtby; I’m going right to the Stanley Cup champions on the market.
Related: Ville Husso’s 4 Likeliest Free-Agent Destinations if He Leaves the Blues
Both of them could cover a lot of games and keep Binnington fresh and healthy for the playoffs. Fleury is intriguing and appears to have a healthy respect for the Blues franchise. I wouldn’t think that Fleury is looking to get paid on the open market, as he’s made a healthy sum of money in his career. Holtby would be a quality second option if he is healthy; he can be perfect in a low-pressure situation like this could be if Binnington is healthy. It’s clear to me that if Fleury is willing to take less money and try to win another Cup, St. Louis would be a great option for him.
The Blues have an interesting offseason ahead of them, with many choices to make. I believe that there will be a bit more roster retooling from Armstrong than many believe. The Blues should be quite active during and after the NHL draft, with many moves to make.