The St. Louis Blues have had quite an interesting season with multiple injuries but somehow are still in contention for number one seed in the Western conference. This led me to looking closer at the depth of the Blues. Guys like Jaskin, Rattie, Lindbohm, Bortuzzo, and yes, even Paajarvi have all stepped up at some point this season. While they haven’t “lit it up”, they have held their own which is what the team needed out of them. While looking at the Blues depth in their organization, I noticed some prospects have made major improvements to their game over the past season and what you’re about to read may get you excited for the 2017-18 St. Louis Blues. These past 5 years of postseason hockey are only just the start; here’s why the Blues are going to be cup contenders for years to come. Before I get into potential players and line combinations, there are a few situations I’ll go over first.
The expansion draft: The NHL is more than likely to be expanding to 32 teams in the next 2 years, giving each conference 16 teams. The 2 expansion teams will obviously have an expansion draft to build their teams. There are multiple rules for current NHL teams to lock certain players but for this story, I’m only going to get into one that will effect the Blues. NHL teams are allowed to lock just one goalie from the expansion draft. Therefore, one of Jake Allen and Brian Elliott are likely to be drafted by an expansion team and probably be their number one goalie. In my opinion, the Blues will lock Allen due to being much younger than Elliott. When it’s all said and done, Elliott could go into the record books as the best goaltender in the history of the St. Louis Blues. This leaves an open roster spot for a goalie; will it be Binnington, Opilka, Husso, or Copley? Going into our next situation…
David Backes contract situation: The longtime captain of the Blues is due to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer. There have been multiple rumors that he’s been wanting a contract in the $6-7 million per year range. The Blues are already tight on money and it would be tough for them to offer that amount unless they unload a contract or two. Backes is getting older so don’t expect the Blues to offer anything more than 3-4 years, especially if they’re offering $6-7 million per year. Is Backes even worth $6-7 million per year? The obvious answer that comes to mind first is no, he’s not. What makes this tough is he’s a perennial selke award nominee as the best defensive forward in the NHL, he has 5 consecutive 20+ goal seasons (not including the lockout season), provides versatility in the lineup being able to play center or wing, and improves special teams adding a great net front presence on the powerplay and kills penalties on the PK. After all, maybe he is worth $6-7 million? It’s a tough call for Armstrong or whoever the new GM may be, especially with the situation we’re taking a look at next…
Kevin Shattenkirk contract situation: Shattenkirk is arguably the best defenseman on the Blues today. He’s due to be an unrestricted free agent after next season. There’s no doubt, he deserves $6+ million per season. He brings great vision to the ice, can quarterback a powerplay, and can play solid defense all while providing 20+ minutes per night. He’s a valuable asset to the Blues but if he hits the open market, he’d arguably be the most valuable free agent of the summer, giving him a huge pay day; something the Blues can’t afford to pay. There are three ways in which the Blues can go with Shattenkirk; unload a contract and not be able to re-sign Backes, run out his contract and have him help the team try to win the cup this season and next season and not re-sign him, or take the trade route. There were multiple rumors of a Shattenkirk for Drouin trade earlier this season and it was very close to happening except the Blues were dealt another key injury, delaying the trade. I’d never thought I’d say this but after looking at the Blues defensive depth/prospects, trading Shattenkirk for a potential perennial all-star may be completely worth it. Especially if they re-sign Backes this offseason meaning it would be very difficult to sign Shattenkirk next summer. Before I start with the 2017-18 Blues, please note I’ll provide two separate line combinations, one involving the Blues not re-signing Backes, and the other involving trading Shattenkirk for Drouin/forward. These are the only moves I include. No free agent signings and no other trades, simply depth throughout the organization.
The 2017-18 St. Louis Blues: The Blues will be balanced with an elite defensive and goaltending core. The offense will be carried by players such as Tarasenko, Schwartz, Stastny, Steen, Lehtera and Fabbri; a mix of a few veterans and three NHL superstars. They’ll be complimented by the play of players such as Backes, Rattie, Jaskin, and yes, even Paajarvi. This leaves a few spots open for younger guys to compete for the final roster spots. Blais, Poganski, Gawdin, MacEachern, Musil, and Barbashev will all compete to make the team. The Blues could have a fairly young 4th line but an offense with lots of skill and hopefully playoff success. Their defense will be one of the NHL’s best. Featuring Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk, and Parayko, this defense can hold its own and provide a lot of offense as well. Edmundson will have a roster spot and the final 2-3 players will consist of Walman, Schmaltz, Dunn, Lindbohm, and Vannelli. The goaltending situation will be led by Jake Allen and have an intense competition to crown the backup/1B goalie. The goaltenders battling for the final roster spot will include Opilka, Binnington, Copely, and Husso. So let’s take a look at some line combinations for the 2017-18 Blues.
Roster 1 (With Backes and a Shattenkirk trade)
Schwartz – Fabbri – Tarasenko
Steen – Stastny – Drouin
Rattie – Lehtera – Backes
Jaskin – Blais – Barbashev
Edmundson – Pietrangelo
Walman – Parayko
Dunn – Schmaltz
Allen – Husso
Roster 2 (Without Backes but with Shattenkirk)
Schwartz -Fabbri – Tarasenko
Steen – Stastny – Rattie
Blais – Lehtera – Jaskin
Paajarvi – Barbashev – MacEachern
Edmundson – Pietrangelo
Walman – Shattenkirk
Dunn – Parayko
Allen – Husso
Either one of those rosters would be playoff contenders for years to come. What do you think the Blues should do and what roster do you think would be best for the Blues franchise? Tweet me your comments @The_STG and thanks for reading!