Right when it looked as if they had all the puzzle pieces in place, the Blues have the potential to be in a weird spot financially. They have a little over $5 million left in cap space, but they still need to re-sign defensemen Joel Edmundson and Jordan Schmaltz. The Blues also appear to be the front-runner to land free agent forward and St. Louis native Pat Maroon. Could they squeeze all three contracts in under the cap? In a perfect world, yes. In that same perfect world the Blues have 30 cups! Unfortunately, we aren’t in that perfect world. This means the Blues are going to have to dump/trade someone to get under the salary cap.
First, there have to be assumptions made about potential contract values. Joel Edmundson is going to try to get a 5-year deal worth about $3.5 million per year. That is reasonable and the Blues will sign off on that deal. Jordan Schmaltz will likely get a one-year contract close to Nikita Soshnikov’s at around $800,000. If the Blues were to land Pat Maroon, according to Lou Korac, Blues’ beat writer for NHL.com, he might sign a deal similar to this one:
Here’s what I got: told that Patrick Maroon to #stlblues has been finalized, could be announced Monday & expected to be for one-year, $1.7 million & that Blues and Maroon will entertain a contract extension when first allowed in January. Looks like Oakville native is coming home.
— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) July 9, 2018
Total, that is around $6 million. Which puts the Blues $1 million over the cap. This wouldn’t be an issue with a healthy Bouwmeester and Gunnarsson, as they could just assign Schmaltz to the minors. But with the possibility of one or both of them not being ready for the start of the season, the Blues would have to carry an extra defenseman, likely Schmaltz, creating some cap conundrums.
So, who’s gone? There are a few possibilities, let’s start with the least likely:
Trade Alex Steen
It is definitely fair to say that Steen’s contract is a bad one. He is making $5.75 million per year for the next 3 seasons and he’s 34-years-old. But that is exactly why the Blues are going to have a hard time trading him, especially since he has a No Trade Clause in his deal. If Armstrong could pull it off then that’s great! However, it is likely not going to happen. This isn’t the end of the world because Steen is turning into one of the better shut down forwards in the game. That type of player is needed on any championship caliber team in order to limit an opposing team’s best player(s).
Trade Jay Bouwmeester
Wouldn’t we all love this? Again at age 34, Bouwmeester is moving toward the end of his career. His $5.4 million contract is up at the end of the year and he would be a great addition to any team looking to add a final piece to a cup contender. But, there is one problem: he is coming off a significant injury. No team is going to want that, and you can’t trade a player until he passes a physical anyway. Don’t get your hopes up for this to happen. The earliest Bouwmeester would be traded is the trade deadline, if at all.
Trade Carl Gunnarsson
He’s 31, only making $2.9 million per year, and he is a solid role player for a defensive group. But, just like Bouwmeester, he’s coming off an injury. It will be hard to trade him before the start of the season.
Trade Brayden Schenn
With only two years left on his contract coming off of a career season, now is a prime opportunity to trade him before he inevitably… just kidding! Schenn isn’t going anywhere (at least he better not or I will organize the riot myself).
Buyout Chris Thorburn
As sad as this makes me, this could be the route the Blues go if the Pat Maroon signing goes through. Maroon plays a similar style game to the 35-year-old Thorburn (with more skill) and the Blues also recently signed the gritty NHL journeyman Jordan Nolan to a two-way contract. This makes Thorburn a redundant asset. In line to make $900,000 this season, getting rid of his contract would cut $600,000 from the payroll ($300,000 would be retained as dead cap). A buyout of Thorburn is possible in this scenario because multiple Blues players filed for salary arbitration. Another small move to shed the remaining cap difference would help push the Blues back towards compliance.
I would really miss NHL Jesus though. He was an absolutely phenomenal guy. Hardworking on the ice and a great personality off of it. I could also see the Blues offering him a position in the club after they buy him out though. Thorburn having a job with the Blues would give him and his family reason to stay in St. Louis and make their lives a lot easier. I could also see him becoming involved with Kelly Chase and the Gateway Locomotives, a team for St. Louis area kids with autism and Down Syndrome, as Thorburn’s own son has autism. If you missed the inspiring article about Thorburn and his son, here it is.
There are a few other options the Blues have at their disposal involving other players and contract negotiations to create space at the top of the cap. We might even see the Blues make multiple moves to create space. But, other than what is listed above, the Blues don’t have a lot of wiggle room if they want to sign Edmundson, Schmaltz, and Maroon. If they get it done, look for Thorburn to become the next assistant director of player personnel for the St. Louis Blues, but he better not cut his hair or shave that amazing beard!