The St. Louis Blues have an important offseason ahead. Their captain Alex Pietrangelo is a free agent and they have had issues in re-signing him, following reports that they are far apart on money.
If Pietrangelo does leave after hitting the open market, the Blues will have around $5 million in cap space. Vince Dunn is a restricted free agent (RFA) and will likely need at least 50% of that cap space to re-sign.
These picks are assuming the Blues clear more space. With Alexander Steen possibly on the way out, they could end up with nearly $10 million in cap space without Pietrangelo re-signing. Here are five players the Blues could sign in free agency in the post-Pietrangelo era.
LW Mike Hoffman (Previous Team: Florida Panthers)
Hoffman could be a great sniper to slide onto the top line for Vladimir Tarasenko, and he would be great on either of the top two lines when Tarasenko returns.
Hoffman has scored 169 goals over 464 games in the last six seasons. He played four of those seasons with the Ottawa Senators and the other two with the Panthers.
He’s played with some good centers over the years, but not the best of the best. He’s proven he can play and produce with anybody over his nine seasons in the NHL.
He broke out in 2018-19 with a career-high 36 goals after being traded to Florida. He’s due to make a good amount of money in the free agency market, likely around $6 million per year.
RW Tyler Toffoli (Previous Team: Vancouver Canucks)
Toffoli should have been a top target at the trade deadline for the Blues, but they stood pat and didn’t add any forwards. He was traded from the Los Angeles Kings to the Vancouver Canucks instead, he played well.
Toffoli would be a great fit for the Blues, he is a solid two-way forward with 20-goal potential in him. He’s scored over 20 goals four times, including a 31 goal season in 2015-16.
I think Toffoli would work well on the second line with Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron. His defensive capabilities coupled with his shot could make this line even better than it already is.
Toffoli’s cap hit in 2019-20 was $4.6 million and he’s likely to get somewhat of a raise in free agency. The Blues could afford him if they want to, he’d be a great addition to the forward group, he fits into the style.
RW Evgenii Dadonov (Previous Team: Florida Panthers)
Dadonov is another Panthers’ forward hitting the free agency market. He fits in the theme of a goal-scoring winger, one that could step onto one of the top lines for Tarasenko in his absence.
Dadonov is similar to Toffoli in his two-way ability. He started his career with the Panthers in 2009 and, after struggling for a few seasons, he went to the KHL. He built his game back up and came back to the Panthers in 2017-18, where he scored 28 goals.
He scored 28 goals again in 2018-19, and also recorded 42 assists for a career-high 70 points. He scored 25 goals in 2019-20 over 69 games, so he remained on pace in the shortened season.
He’s a clean, two-way player that would fit right onto a line with somebody like O’Reilly. Dadonov has just 26 penalty minutes over the last three seasons. He plays a lot of minutes for a forward and would be a boost to either of the powerplay units for the Blues.
His cap hit last season was $4 million, he is certainly due for a raise after three straight 20 plus goal seasons. One thing that could factor into the contract he gets is that he will be 32 years old by March 2021.
If the Blues could get him for anything under $6 million, it should be seriously considered by the front office.
RW Craig Smith (Previous Team: Nashville Predators)
Smith is a solid veteran forward that can score goals and play a hard-working style if needed. It was recently announced that he will test free agency this year and could leave the Predators after a long time with the franchise.
Smith has spent all nine of his seasons with the Predators and has been productive in all of them. He’s coming off of a solid season in 2019-20, scoring 18 goals.
In five of his nine seasons, he’s scored over 20 goals and now has 162 goals over 661 games in his career. He’s never had a season where he played over 17 minutes on average.
Smith would be a fine option on the second or third line and could score 20-plus goals if he can stay healthy and gain some line chemistry with someone like Tyler Bozak. His current cap hit is $4.25 million and they could possibly get him for cheaper than that.
D Erik Gustafsson (Previous Team: Calgary Flames)
I figured I would throw one defenseman on the list, and it’s Gustafsson, the former Chicago Blackhawks’ two-way defender.
Gustafsson spent his first three and a half NHL seasons in Chicago and was quite productive over that time. He was traded to the Flames at the 2020 trade deadline and played seven games there before the postseason.
Gustafsson had a breakout season in 2018-19, where he scored 17 goals and 43 assists for 60 points. He’s scored 119 points, 28 of them being goals in 221 games of his career.
He’s going to be 29 years old next March and is set to make a decent amount of money in free agency. I don’t expect the Blues to pay a defenseman to replace Pietrangelo, but this would be a good one to get.
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The Blues could use Gustafsson next to somebody like Justin Faulk to create a decent pairing with lots of offense, they would lack some actual defense though with those two, but it could work.
Honorable Mentions: C Mikael Granlund, C/W Vladislav Namestnikov, D Chris Tanev
Either way, it’s going to be tough for the Blues to form a championship-caliber roster if they lose Pietrangelo. But we’ve seen Doug Armstrong make shifty moves in the past. He should have some cap space to play with, especially if Steen ends up gone.