This is the latest file in THN.com’s ongoing analysis of each NHL team’s off-season moves. Today, we’re unpacking the St. Louis Blues.
2021-22 record: 11-22-49
Finishing in the central division: 3rd
Available salary cap space (according to CapFri Friendly.com): $625,000
Unrestricted Free Agents: Tyler Bosak, F.; James Neal, p
what st louis: a brilliant nucleus of experienced skilled talent; fully signed list; An accomplished and respected management team at GM Doug Armstrong and Head Coach Craig Berube; an elite goalkeeper in Jordan Bennington; Deep Defense Corps whose top four players are all signed for four seasons; The group of the first six strikers, eight of whom scored at least 20 goals last season
What St. Louis Needs: Flexible salary cap. A deal that satisfies the indignant star and main scorer Vladimir Tarasenko, and satisfies the needs that will come after his departure; Strong season of goalkeeping support from new acquisition Thomas Greiss; Healthy and productive from their fourth streak forward
What’s realistic in the upcoming season for St. Louis: The Blues experienced a fair degree of turmoil in 2021-22, first dealing with a trade request from longtime winger and cornerstone Vladimir Tarasenko, then pushing through regular season struggles from starting goalkeeper Jordan Bennington. But they overcame adversity, found a way to keep Tarasenko at St. Louis, and had enough patience with Bennington to see him rebound later in the year and in the post-season. As a result, they knocked out the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the playoffs and gave the Stanley Cup champions the Colorado Avalanche a panic before falling to them in six games.
Now, failing to reach the Western Conference Final for the third consecutive season after winning the first trophy in franchise history in 2018-19 wasn’t the blues’ idea of success, but let’s face it – winning just one trophy is hard enough, let’s alone win the multiple trophies With the same group of players. All-Stars have to team up with a team to win it all, and St. Louis must continue to push their core talents while they can all continue to contribute.
Their tightening against the salary cap meant saying goodbye to departing unrestricted free agent David Peron and goalkeeper Phil Hosseau, but the Blues still have a high-impact group of attackers, a mobile group of defenders and a royal group willing to spend on the maximum every year. However, Tarasenko is still believed to want out of town, and with only a year left on his current contract, he could offer an important mix of possibilities, maximum space, and ready-made NHL talent in any trade. Such a move would be painful, but Tarasenko was a strong citizen for them last season, and probably not worth the risk of keeping him in St. Louis if it means an unhappy player in the dressing room.
Regardless, the Blues will be a playoff team again in 2022-23, with another showdown with Avs looming. This could be the last solution for this particular group, as Captain Ryan O’Reilly and forward Noel Acchiari will all be unrestricted free agents next summer, and winger Jordan Cairo being a restricted free agent. The Blues will have plenty of room, but with Tarasenko somehow going, is it time to quickly retool them? That’s a question GM Doug Armstrong will have to deal with soon enough. But for now, at least, they’re still one of the most dangerous teams in the league, and they could easily jump Minnesota for second in the Central Division, giving them an ice advantage on their home ground in the first round.