The St. Louis Blues once again have key unrestricted free agents heading into the offseason, with big decisions to make on whether they will re-sign them or let them walk. In the 2019-20 offseason, the team lost Alex Pietrangelo, the captain who helped them win the Stanley Cup, to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Keep in mind this is my own scale, based on the facts, the player’s style, my gut feeling, and a couple of other factors that will be ranked on a 0.0 to 10.0 scale – the higher the number, the better the chance that the player will receive an extension offer from the Blues.
Pros: The biggest issue with Jaden Schwartz’s game is his execution. He does all of the little things well but has struggled to score goals at an average pace for a few seasons. He played well in 2019-20 when he scored 22 goals, but this season and in 2018-19, he scored a combined 15 goals in 97 games (so far). He has to be more consistent to make a deal worthwhile.
Cons: His inconsistency is the main reason the Blues shouldn’t offer Schwartz an extension. He is among the most unlucky scorers in the NHL, and his playmaking isn’t great either. Given his low goal-scoring, as good as he is in the defensive zone, it may not be worth paying him.
Odds: 8.3/10.0. The Blues likely don’t want to lose another core player in back-to-back offseasons. They also likely see Schwartz as a great fit and believe his consistency will improve. I’ll be surprised if he isn’t extended despite his scoring issues.
Pros: The pro here is that Mike Hoffman is a pure and proven goal-scorer who has scored 20 or more goals in the last six seasons before this one; it’s about utilizing his skillset.
Cons: He hasn’t fit well with the Blues. He has been a healthy scratch a few times, and he hasn’t been a consistent scorer for most of the season. I get the feeling that head coach Craig Berube doesn’t like Hoffman’s style, which is all offense and not much defense or forechecking.
Odds: 1.7/10.0. I don’t see any scenario where Hoffman is extended by the Blues. He arrived as a rental to try and help the club make a deep playoff run, and it hasn’t worked all that well. The Blues also have plenty of forward depth without him.
Pros: Tyler Bozak has worked out well as the team’s third-line center since he signed as a free agent before the 2018-19 season. His production is good enough for his role, and his two-way game is solid when he’s healthy.
Cons: Bozak will be 36 years old at the back-end of the 2021-22 season, so he doesn’t have too many seasons left in the NHL. Despite being a double-digit goal-scorer through most of his career, it always feels like he could offer more. Either way, he’s been a respected Blue during his three seasons in St. Louis.
Odds: 7.2/10.0. While there’s no way Bozak will get the same $5 million cap hit he received from the Blues during the 2018 offseason, he could settle for around $3 million or less per season to return to the club. He seems to have enjoyed his time with the organization, and he has had good linemates in the last three seasons. At the right price, he could finish his career on a high note in St. Louis.
Pros: There aren’t many pros to re-signing Carl Gunnarsson. His best seasons are behind him, especially after he suffered a major knee injury early in the season. He has always been a steady and experienced defender for the Blues, and if management wants a defenseman they trust, he could be a good depth option.
Cons: The con is that he’s coming off of a major injury, and he will turn 35 at the beginning of next season. There isn’t much room for him to crack the top-six given the number of young defenders the organization has coming up.
Odds: 3.7/10.0. I can’t imagine the Blues will try to find the cap space to bring back an aging defender. He fits the team’s style given his size and physicality to a degree, but he won’t play much if he returns.
The Blues will likely approach this offseason expecting to bring back one or two of these pending free agents. Either way, general manager Doug Armstrong has work to do to keep the team’s Cup window open, as he tries to keep the core together while adding assets. He’s proven he can build a good club in the past, and now he’ll have to prove it again.