Blues Weekly: Toropchenko, Coaching Changes, Free Agents & More

The St. Louis Blues are about to embark on what will be a fascinating offseason in the NHL. Big names are on the market and some teams are looking to be aggressive with their moves.

St. Louis Blues Weekly Ryan O'Reilly David Perron
Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron (The Hockey Writers)

I think it’s safe to say that the Blues are somewhere between the passive and aggressive teams this summer. They will look to improve in the necessary areas, notably the blue line, but they also realize that they already have a great roster.

Related: Previewing Blues 2022 Prospect Camp

Some minor news and notes to cover for the Blues with this edition of the weekly column, including a shift in the coaching staff and an injury to a key depth forward.

Toropchenko Undergoes Shoulder Surgery

After cementing himself as a definite bottom-six forward for the 2022-23 season, Alexei Toropchenko is now likely to miss the beginning of the season, as he underwent shoulder surgery, a similar one performed on Vladimir Tarasenko. He is expected to be out until at least December, meaning that he will miss a minimum of two months of the season.

Toropchenko appeared in 28 games last regular season and 12 playoff games and scored two goals in the former and two assists in the latter. The numbers may not look outstanding, but his performance was well above average for what the Blues wanted from him. He is a quality energy fourth-line winger and skates as well as just about anybody on the team with that large 6-foot-6 frame. The Blues will certainly miss him, but this opens up opportunities for players like Nathan Walker and even Klim Kostin.

Jim Montgomery Hired as Bruins Head Coach

After spending two seasons with the Blues, Montgomery is leaving to become the next head coach of the Boston Bruins. He’ll take over for Bruce Cassidy, who was fired last month and hired as the head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights. The coaching carousel in the NHL this summer has been wild, and it’s not a surprise that the Blues lost a coach from Craig Berube’s staff. It’s likely that Steve Ott and Mike Van Ryn could get opportunities next, as they’ve been excellent under him in St. Louis.

Roope Hintz, Mats Zuccarello, Alexander Radulov, Jim Montgomery
Former Dallas Stars coach Jim Montgomery (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

There are so many great things to say about Montgomery and how he handled his time with the Blues. He obviously went through a tough situation that cost him his job with the Dallas Stars, but he rebounded nicely with the Blues. His power-play unit was second in the NHL last season, even after losing specialist Mike Hoffman from the season before.

Montgomery was an excellent fit for the Blues and they will miss him, but this is a fantastic opportunity, as he’s always been a prolific coach and it’s shown as he has moved up the ranks. The Blues and their fans should wish him nothing but the best, as he was pure class during his time in St. Louis.

Blues Add Craig MacTavish to Coaching Staff

To replace Montgomery, the Blues added Craig MacTavish to their staff. It’s clear that after hearing general manager Doug Armstrong’s comments, he had been on their radar for a long time in the event they had to replace an assistant coach. After spending eight seasons as the Edmonton Oilers head coach, he was in front offices and coaching in the American Hockey League (AHL) and Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). He’ll return to an NHL bench for the first time since being fired by the Oilers after the 2008-09 season.

MacTavish should be a solid addition for Berube, as he’ll join an established staff alongside Van Ryn and Ott. There is a ton of experience behind this bench, as it’s among one of the most stable and elite groups in the entire league. He will just add to it, as he played over 1,000 games in the NHL, including 63 with the Blues to finish out his playing career. He’s also been around hockey in every form. Whether it’s playing, broadcasting, or coaching, MacTavish has done it all.

Nothing on the Blues UFAs Right Now

There was nothing to report for Armstrong as he spoke with the media last week. The four main unrestricted free agents (UFA), those being David Perron, Tyler Bozak, Nick Leddy, and Ville Husso, could all hit the open market within the next nine days. The main priority is clearly Perron, but the Blues are likely going to engage in talks with Leddy and Husso as well.

David Perron St. Louis Blues
David Perron, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Perron is coming off of another 20-goal season, and he should be the priority. The ideal scenario for the Blues is sacrificing some term for a lower annual average value (AAV) on his deal. He’s a heart and soul player for the team, and losing him for the third time would be devastating. As for Bozak, it seems like retirement or another one-year deal is on the horizon, and I’d be somewhat surprised if the Blues retain him.

The Blues certainly should talk to Leddy about returning, but his performance down the stretch could fetch him a big deal on the open market. I’m not sure they want to spend what it might cost for him, but they’ll certainly explore all avenues to fix their defensive woes. Whether it’s Jakob Chychrun or Ivan Provorov, they are going to look to make defensive upgrades. Leddy could be part of that too.

Husso is more than likely out the door in St. Louis, after having a career-best regular season. A team like the Oilers or Detroit Red Wings could give him a lot of money in this free agency cycle. The Blues should try to get Husso for as cheap as possible, as they’re already paying Jordan Binnington $6 million per season for the next five years. It doesn’t seem likely that he returns, but everybody knows that Armstrong keeps his cards close to his vest and won’t give the media much about what he is doing.

The Month Ahead

  • July 7-8: NHL Entry Draft
  • July 13: Free Agency Begins

The month of July will be an active and crucial month for the league. The draft is coming up this week, with the Blues having a total of five picks, one in every round with the exception of the second and seventh rounds. There are plenty of terrific draft targets for them with their first two picks, that much is clear. The free agency period could mark a big signing or trade for the Blues, but it’s going to be fascinating to see what they will do. Fans must have faith in Armstrong and his vision, as he hasn’t proven otherwise in his tenure.

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