The St. Louis Blues weren’t active in the free agent market during the first week of action, and there is potentially good reason for that. But there were certain decisions and players that they picked over others that made them miss out on some quality signings.
The Blues were unable to swing a trade for Matthew Tkachuk with the Calgary Flames, which puts even more heat on the franchise despite the massive haul that the Flames got. But there are some players that the Blues missed out on due to either a lack of interest, signing a player over them, or focusing on a bigger move.
The loss of David Perron in free agency would have made Dylan Strome a solid option as a versatile top-nine forward. Strome signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Washington Capitals, getting a $500,000 raise from last season with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Strome is coming off of a season with 22 goals for the rebuilding Blackhawks, proving his worth in a poor situation. The best part of his game is his versatility, as he can play center or wing, which is incredibly valuable to any NHL team. He would have slotted in as a perfect winger with Brayden Schenn and Ivan Barbashev on the third line, which would have been a trio that screamed 20-plus goals for two or three of its members.
With all of that said, Strome now heads to Washington, an aging core with a Stanley Cup window that continues to decrease. He’ll be a tremendous asset for them as their top center Nicklas Backstrom will be out long-term after hip surgery. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see a career season for Strome, as there will be a lot of opportunities to score 60 or more points.
It was surprising to see a forward like Nino Niederreiter on the market for so long, as it took over a week after free agency opened for the Nashville Predators to sign him. He might be the most underrated forward in the league, as his analytical numbers are off the charts good.
Last season, Niederreiter’s offensive and defensive impact were above average for the Carolina Hurricanes. He had 24 goals and 20 assists in 75 games, marking the sixth 20-goal season of his career. The thing that would have made him such a good fit was his ability to be effective on any of the top three lines. I envisioned him being good with Ryan O’Reilly, becoming somewhat of a Perron-type player for him.
This is a fantastic pickup for the Predators, as it furthers their commitment to a retooled roster after re-signing Filip Forsberg as well. I imagine he will play with either Ryan Johansen or Mikael Granlund as his center in Nashville, which should not make his production drop off. The Blues may need a forward like this to either replace Perron or a forward lost in a potential trade and this was the best option in my view.
Instead of signing a backup goaltender that had good numbers last season, the Blues opted for Thomas Greiss. I criticized the move for Greiss due to his bad 2021-22 season and age factor, as I don’t think he was the right backup behind Jordan Binnington. I believe that Eric Comrie, who was the Winnipeg Jets’ backup last season, was the right backup to sign instead.
Comrie had a save percentage (SV%) of .920 last season and only appeared in 19 games. It’s a small sample size, but he’s far younger and put up quality numbers behind a shaky defensive unit that missed the playoffs. One big issue working against him is the fact that he has only played in a total of 28 NHL games over a six-year career. His career numbers aren’t great, but he was above average last season and is a better option than Greiss.
Comrie signed a two-year deal carrying an AAV of $1.8 million with the Buffalo Sabres, which is where the Blues can make the excuse that they wanted a one-year deal for a goaltender due to the development of Joel Hofer. That’s all well and good, but moving off of that contract with Comrie would not be difficult if Hofer was ready by the 2023-24 season. I refuse to believe that Greiss was the right option, but maybe I will be proven wrong.
This offseason for the Blues has been a major disappointment to this point, and I don’t see any moves that can move the needle after the Tkachuk trade to the Florida Panthers became official. It’s going to take some magic from general manager Doug Armstrong or the club will go into 2022-23 with a worse roster than 2021-22.