After a disappointing end to a season, it is natural for sports teams (and their fan bases) to speculate about what the next year’s roster will look like. The St. Louis Blues fit into this category; missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season puts the franchise in a position to reevaluate which players factor into their long-term goals.
There are some question marks this off season—will Ty Conklin return? Crombeen? Janssen? And will the Blues fix their perpetual ownership problem?
Of course, only time will reveal the answers to these questions, but speculation says the organization will not renew all of the expired contracts.
Of the forwards currently with the Blues, two will be Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA) this off season: Chris Porter and Cam Janssen. Due to Porter’s decent play as a call-up during the injuries to Andy McDonald, T.J. Oshie, and David Perron, it is likely the Blues will resign Porter. Janssen, however, is a question mark.
Janssen is a hometown favorite from Eureka, but his on-ice play has left a lot to be desired. A more offensively-minded player could fill Janssen’s enforcer role—possibly Ryan Reaves who spent most of 2010-11 playing for the Peoria Rivermen, the Blues’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate. Reaves showed spark while sporting the Bluenote in 28 games this season. If Janssen hopes to remain a Blue, he can expect stiff competition from Reaves for the spot.
Reaves is a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) this summer, meaning if the Blues wish to retain him, they have to sign him to a new contract, but the organization does own his rights. If Reaves were to sign with another club, that club would have to compensate the Blues for taking their player.
In addition to Reaves, the Blues have numerous RFAs to make decisions on this offseason. T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund are sure returners. Because of their cheap price and respectable contributions on the ice, it is likely Matt D’Agostini and Vladimir Sobotka return as well.
D’Agostini had a career year, posting 21 goals. Sobotka played a gritty game this year, helping to alleviate the loss of Jay McClement due to the February trade that sent McClement to Colorado alongside Erik Johnson in exchange for Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk.
The Blues may not resign B.J. Crombeen. With a cap hit just over $870k, Crombeen is an affordable penalty killer who plays with his heart on his sleeve. Crombeen seemed to have a bit of an off year this season (finishing minus-18). Though the front office seems to love him, the organization could seek a more productive piece at a slightly higher cost.
Perron is a question mark for this up-coming season. After sustaining a concussion in November, Perron missed the rest of the season and still suffers from concussion symptoms. Until he is symptom free, he will not return to the lineup.
Vladimir Tarasenko is another potential addition to the roster; picked 16th overall by the Blues in the 2010 draft, Tarasenko has been playing hockey in Russia, but may be ready to make the transition to the NHL. The status of these two players will determine whether or not the Blues try to make some depth signings or trades to compensate for the loss of Perron. If Tarasenko does not join the squad and Perron is still out, it is likely the Blues will need to seek some kind of outside help.
On the back end, Roman Polak and Nikita Nikitin have contracts expiring this summer. Both are RFAs and will likely remain Blues. Nikitin impressed this season when given the opportunity to play.
Though Alex Pietrangelo, Barret Jackman, Carlo Colaiacovo, and Kevin Shattenkirk are all under contract, Jackman or Colaiacovo could be moved this offseason in a deal to find a top-pairing partner for Pietrangelo.
The Blues lack a top left-handed defenseman and neither Jackman nor Colaiacovo can handle top-pairing minutes all season long. If any of these six defensemen are not in St. Louis next year, Colaiacovo is the most likely departure. Jackman has a no trade clause (NTC) and likely wants to remain a Blue if at all possible.
The Blues also have Ian Cole in the pipeline, who will likely fight for a roster spot in training camp. The former first round pick could make the team, forcing the Blues to move or sit one of the former six starters.
There is no question as to the starting goaltender for St. Louis next year. Jaroslav Halak gets the nod. Brought to St. Louis in a trade with Montreal before the start of the 2010-11 season, Halak solidified his spot as the number one goaltender. Conklin will likely not return as his contract expires this summer.
The Blues have two quality goalies in Peoria in Jake Allen and Ben Bishop.
St. Louis called up Bishop during the season when Halak was hurt; he went 3-4-0 in seven games with a .889 SV% and 2.76 GAA. Bishop will likely be Halak’s backup barring a goalie signing by the Blues this offseason. Though some intriguing names will hit the market (Matheiu Garon, Peter Budaj, Josh Harding), it is likely the Blues stay within their organization given the promising sparks Bishop exhibited this season.
After the blockbuster trade that sent Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart to St. Louis in February, it is unlikely the Blues will move any big names this off season.
Heading into the draft, the Blues have three second-round picks and with the nature of this draft class, will probably keep the picks.
Fans can expect minor free agent signing or trades this summer, but Blues President John Davidson feels the young core is in place—at this point, the organization will be looking for role players to assist the core and veteran presence for the blue line. Aside from that, the Blues look solid heading into next season.