The St. Louis Blues announced on Tuesday that veteran defenseman Marco Scandella will undergo surgery on his right hip joint and will be re-evaluated in six months. Scandella injured the hip in late August while training for the upcoming season. The 32-year-old joined the Blues in a trade from the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 18, 2020. Over three seasons with the team, he has totaled 24 points (six goals, 18 assists) in 130 regular-season games. The cap-strapped Blues will likely place him on long-term injured reserve to free up his $3.275 million cap hit to create financial flexibility during his absence. While he is out of the lineup, playing time will be up for grabs to the defenseman who can earn the spot.
The most likely option to replace Scandella this coming season will be Scott Perunovich. The dynamic, offensive-minded defenseman made his way to St. Louis last season after a league-leading 22 points (3 goals, 19 assists) in 17 games in the American Hockey League (AHL). His first season in the NHL was cut short after sustaining an injury to his wrist, requiring surgery. As a 23-year-old in his first regular season with the Blues, Perunovich made 19 appearances recording six assists.
After missing nearly three months, Perunovich returned in style against the Minnesota Wild in a 5-2 victory in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. In his first game back, he played 12:32, with 3:32 of that time coming on the power play. He had an assist in a five-on-five play, on David Perron’s first goal. The undersized, 5-foot-10-inch defenseman should be given every opportunity to succeed and earn a spot in the lineup this coming season.
The 2022-23 season will provide an opportunity to not only Perunovich but to the 6-foot-4 Finnish defenseman Niko Mikkola, as well. This past season saw an increased role and responsibility for him as he saw a majority of his time paired with either Colton Parayko or Robert Bortuzzo. Mikkola will be entering his fourth season with St. Louis having played only 89 games. Over his career, he has provided four goals and 17 points. While he may not be one to produce offensively, he does not shy away from a challenge, as proven by his fight this past season against Sidney Crosby.
The Blues’ options between the two defensemen are nearly polar opposites, as Perunovich provides a higher offensive upside and Mikkola with a higher defensive. Blues head coach Craig Berube may opt to split time between the two depending on their recent performances and the matchup each night.
Tyler Tucker & Brady Lyle
The final option for St. Louis comes in the form of two prospects – Tyler Tucker and Brady Lyle. The 22-year-old, Tucker has played the last two seasons in the AHL scoring four goals and 25 total points. He has established himself as a top-four defenseman in the AHL while averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game. Though his offensive abilities may be limited, Tucker has become a key component for the team’s penalty-killing unit and in the defensive zone. While it is unlikely that he becomes more than a third-pairing option for the Blues throughout his career, fans could rest easy knowing he is capable to provide a defensive style of support in the NHL.
Lyle, 23, saw a successful first season in the AHL during the 2020-21 campaigns with the Providence Bruins scoring 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) over 25 games. However, after only nine points in 48 games, the Bruins organization opted to move on and traded him to St. Louis. Lyle took to the change of scenery and reclaimed his scoring touch with three goals and seven points over 15 regular season games, and an additional nine points (three goals, six assists) over 16 postseason games. Lyle is a defenseman that can really shoot the puck well and has very good instincts at both ends of the ice that could make a name for himself in training camp and preseason.
The Blues will have multiple options this coming season to provide reinforcements in the event of a trade or another injury. Fans should rest easy knowing that their team has players ready to be inserted into the lineup should they need to be called upon this coming season.