It will be the 2nd time since the 2015-2016 season that Blues forward Patrik Berglund will start the season on the Injured Reserve list as he had surgery to fix a left dislocated shoulder injury that occurred while training in Sweden. Berglund’s timeline has him returning in a Blues uniform in December. This news is unfortunate to the Blues due to Berglund’s play during the 2016-17 season where he tallied a career high 23 goals to follow 11 assists (34 points) has he was mostly playing a 3rd line center roll for the Blues. This injury doesn’t create a huge dent because the Blues have depth in the organization. There depth will create an opportunity for someone else to replace Berglund until his return. Free agency is right around the corner, will the Blues decide to fill the void free agency wise, or will they promote a player from within?
Free agency starts on July 1st and there are some names out there that the Blues could be interested in signing. The current salary cap space for the Blues is sitting at $11.6 million. Blues restricted free agent Colton Parayko is expected to earn half of the remaining cap space available as the Blues expect to sign Parayko long term in the money range of $5+ million. A couple names in free agency stand out to help the Blues which are Joe Thornton, and Justin Williams. Joe Thornton has had a hall of fame career. He is coming off knee surgery following a down 2016-17 campaign which he was only able to tally 50 points (7G 43A) in 79 games. He only has so much time left in his career and will be playing in his age 38 season. This could fill in the center position for the short term, but the price for Thornton will be high.
Justin Williams would be the most affordable signing as he would replace the voided right wing spot that was once held by David Perron before he was drafted to the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 Expansion Draft. Williams, a former 2014 Conn Smyth award winner while playing for the Los Angeles Kings, had a good season with the Washington Capitals tallying 48 points (24G 24A) in 80 games. He also comes with a background history of being a great playoff player. Though, this doesn’t fill the void of a 3rd line center, it does plug in a right handed shot that could be used on special teams. If Williams chooses to sign with the Blues, Head Coach Mike Yeo could move Alexander Steen, or Vladimir Sobotka from the wing to the middle in the absence of Berglund and allow a young player replace the wing position.
If the Blues do steer clear of free agency signings, there are a handful of young players that will be eager to try and become an everyday player for the Blues. Players such as Zach Sanford, Ivan Barbashev, Oskar Sundqvist, Magnus Paajarvi, and Dmitrij Jaskin are looking to be everyday players for the Blues. Barbashev has the most experience at center in the NHL of the others listed. He spent time on the first line centering Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz in the regular season and in the playoffs. There are also prospects that will get a look such as 2017 31st overall pick Klim Kostin, 2016’s 26th overall pick Tage Thompson and the 35th overall pick Jordan Kyrou will be looking to try and find a spot available during training camp. Kostin, Thompson, and Kyrou are young 18 and 19 year old players that may need time in the American Hockey League to develop their game before take a stride towards the NHL.
In the end, the Blues have a chance to be a strong playoff contender for the 2017-18 season. They have a strong team and a strong prospect group to work with. When Patrik Berglund returns, someone will be moved around the lineup and, most likely, it will be a young player for the Blues that will help fill a void for about 25 games. The last thought to think about would be what General Manager Doug Armstrong said about his group after the 2017 playoffs and that would be, “to plan for the next 3 years.” Blues center Paul Stastny will be finishing up his 4 year $28 million contract after the 2017-18 season and the Blues will need to resign Robby Fabbri and Joel Edmondson after the 2017-18 season as well. Armstrong needs salary cap space to operate for the future and there is one center to refer to as “Sasquatch” that will be a free agent in 2018 (if he doesn’t sign a new contract from now until then) which is Johnathan Taveras.
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