The St. Louis Blues went 1-1-0 in their return to play after the All-Star break. As has been mentioned many times in previous articles, their schedule is quite favorable this month, so they have to rack some points up.
Even with some small lineup changes, the Blues looked good in their bounce-back win on Saturday over the Chicago Blackhawks. There are still multiple issues with this team, but they seem to be trending in the right direction with certain changes that have been made.
Bortuzzo, Toropchenko & Brown Sign Contract Extensions
Early last week, the Blues announced extensions for three depth pieces, bolstering that depth for another season or more. The first contract to be extended was Robert Bortuzzo, who got a two-year extension with an annual average value (AAV) of $950,000.
This deal is low risk for Bortuzzo who has been a great depth piece on the back-end for the Blues. He’s been a solid third-pairing defenseman when needed and has been key on the penalty kill. He’s already played parts of eight seasons for the Blues, so he could reach 10 seasons with the team if he sees this contract out.
The next two deals announced were for Alexei Toropchenko and Logan Brown, two young forwards in the organization. They’ve both spent time with the Blues this season, and both have proved that they can be valuable depth pieces. The extension for Toropchenko was for one year with an AAV of $750,000. It was unsurprisingly a two-way deal.
Brown received a one-year extension with an AAV of $750,000, the biggest part of this deal is that it’s a one-way deal, meaning the Blues expect him to be at the NHL level next season. The trade that sent Zach Sanford to the Ottawa Senators and brought Brown home to St. Louis was another stroke of genius from general manager Doug Armstrong.
While Toropchenko didn’t score any points in his five games with the Blues this season, he’s proven that he can be of use with his physical, 6-foot-6 frame and skating ability. All three of these moves are low-risk and ensure depth over the next couple of seasons for the team.
Berube Signs Three-Year Extension
A move that has likely been in the works for a while, and was wanted by the majority of the fanbase, has happened. The Blues gave head coach Craig Berube a three-year extension that runs through the 2024-25 season. This was an obvious move to make, given their success since he took over midway through the magical 2018-19 season.
Everyone is aware that Berube was able to lead the Blues to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history during a historic run in the 2018-19 season, but the success has continued since then. While they’ve had a couple of odd first-round playoff exits over the past two seasons, they’ve been fantastic in the regular season. And the last two playoff appearances have been different due to the pandemic and fan restrictions.
Overall, the Blues have a regular-season record of 134-72-30 under Berube, that’s good for a points percentage (PTS%) of .631, which is amongst the best in the league in that time. They had a great season going in 2019-20 before the COVID-19 outbreak suspended the season, where they were 42-19-10 for 94 points in 71 games, which was second in the league overall.
This extension was well deserved. The duo of Berube and Armstrong has continued to build the roster in a way that keeps the Cup window alive, and Berube has shown he can make subtle system adjustments to fit his roster. He has done that this season and it’s helped them succeed despite some major defensive and goaltending issues.
Scandella Has Lower-Body Injury
It’s already been a rough season for Marco Scandella on the back-end for the Blues, and now he’s listed as week-to-week due to a lower-body injury that he suffered during the loss to the New Jersey Devils. He was a minus-3 versus the Devils, his worst mark since an identical minus-3 versus the Nashville Predators on Jan. 11.
The minutes for Scandella have dropped off over the last few weeks, as pressure mounts for Armstrong to make a move to improve their defense. There have been a plethora of good moves made by Armstrong over the last few seasons, but the Scandella extension is one of the worst. He has two more years left on his deal after this season, with a cap hit of $3.275 million.
I’m not sure that any team in the NHL would even consider taking this contract on, and if they do, the Blues will have to give up multiple draft picks to do so. That’s why I have been hesitant to say that the Blues will make any additions of significance at the trade deadline. The clear need is on the back-end and there is no doubt that they will explore making a move, but it’s harder to do than many believe.
The Week Ahead
- Tuesday: at Ottawa Senators, 6 PM
- Thursday: at Montreal Canadiens, 6 PM
- Saturday: at Toronto Maple Leafs, 6 PM
Another trip to Canada for the Blues this week, they’ll play all three games north of the border, whether Justin Faulk likes it or not. They’ll play the Habs and Leafs for the second time each this season, while it will be their first game against the Senators since October 2019.
Related: Blues Need Perron to Return to Form
This is an opportunity for the Blues to build off of their win over the Blackhawks and rack up points before their Saturday night showdown with the Leafs, a battle between two of the best teams in the league. This should be an interesting week of hockey for them.
I have been covering sports for nearly a decade. I started with FanSided as a Baseball Contributor. Now I am writing about the NHL and the St. Louis Blues for The Hockey Writers. I grew up in Central Illinois as a huge fan of every sport. Finally, I do various podcasting across all major platforms.