The St. Louis Blues will certainly have a different look next season after another first round playoff exit, but the road to change will not be an easy one. Tom Stillman and his ownership group may want to adopt a classic Ringo Starr tune as the anthem for fans and players alike in during the coming off-season. While the choices for roster moves may seem obvious to fans, things are not always as simple as we’d like to think. The Blues have a core of players with hefty contracts that in many cases include no-trade clauses that could muddy the waters heading out of St. Louis.
Who Stays, Who Goes?
I agree with many that T.J. Oshie is a likely candidate to be wearing a different team’s sweater next season. His lack of post-season scoring has been a glaring problem during his time with the Blues, but production during the regular season combined with his skill should make him valuable to other clubs. While his contract isn’t small ($4.175mil for 2 more years) Oshie does *not* have a no-trade clause and will not have a say in the matter if the Blues want to make a change to the “core.”
Other potentially replaceable parts such as Patrik Berglund and Jay Bouwmeester, two guys who have worn out their welcome for many fans, will have the ability to block trades desired by the Blues. Berglund’s power of veto doesn’t kick in until July 1 this year but I’m not confident St. Louis will make any deals prior to that deadline. Unless there’s a change, the Blues will be paying him $3.7mil for the next two years. I believe Bergie has the skill to be a decent 3rd line forward or even centerman but he’s not produced as expected and I don’t see teams beating down the door to grab him up.
Bouwmeester *just* signed a five-year deal with the Blues giving him $5.7mil per year through the 2018-19 season. I’m one of the fans shouting loudly for him to be sent packing but I don’t think the Blues are interested in cutting ties with the former Iron Man just yet, though his contract could be an albatross around the team’s collective necks if he can’t return to a better form next year. His defensive play dropped off dramatically after he spent time on IR this season for the first time in his career. Playing 737 consecutive games may have, despite being only 31 years old, finally taken a toll on Bouwmeester’s legs.
Fan Favorites Old & New
Blues fans may not agree on Barret Jackman’s fate. A St. Louis “lifer,” Jax has worn the Bluenote for 13 years and would like nothing more than to end his career where it started. It would be odd seeing Jax change cities but the Blues have intriguing young prospects coming up through the AHL, most notably Petteri Lindbohm who should compete for a roster spot come training camp in September while making less than $700k.
Another potential replacement for Jackman’s roster spot could be Robert Bortuzzo who quickly endeared himself to St. Louis after coming here via trade because of his hard-nosed, physical defense. Bortuzzo would have to be re-signed, but either of those guys would be a much cheaper option than Jackman unless the veteran agrees to play for far less than the $2mil per year he’s likely to command, a change that may be too much for a proud veteran regardless of how upset fans might be should he depart:
— Heather Knupp (@pookus_1) April 29, 2015
Change may also come at the top for the St. Louis Blues. It is widely believed Head Coach Ken Hitchcock will not be invited back. Some fewer fans believe the NHL may have seen the last of Hitch and he’ll choose to retire. General Manager Doug Armstrong was quick to take his share of blame for the repeatedly disappointing playoff performances of his team and HE might be on the proverbial “hot seat.” That’s perhaps a stretch to speculate, but it’s certainly possible.
I don’t think a wholesale change is in order for the Blues and I don’t believe Stillman & Co. are prone to making knee-jerk reactive moves. I also don’t think Blues fans are ready for that kind of “rebuilding” approach to the roster, but change will come nonetheless. There are eight free agents on the roster as it stood after the Game 6 loss to Minnesota and Army made it clear no one will be signed or re-signed until Vladimir Tarasenko has a contract. I’m looking forward to seeing what path St. Louis will take for next season in what should be an entertaining Summer in St. Louis.