What is the Blues’ long-term outlook?
With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the St. Louis Blues.
Pending Free Agents
- Jacod De La Rose (RFA)
- Troy Brouwer (UFA)
- Alex Pietrangelo (UFA)
- Vince Dunn (RFA)
- Jay Bouwmeester (UFA)
Outside of top defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who would be the top free agent available this summer, pretty much every key player on the Blues’ roster is signed (or under team control) through the end of next season.
Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko are the two most impactful forwards on the roster and both have long-term deals through the end of the 2022-23 season at a combined salary cap number of $15 million. As long as they maintain their current levels of play (Tarasenko being a 30-35 goal winger; O’Reilly being a dominant two-way center) they are going to be the foundation of a contending team at a pretty fair price against the cap.
Things do get a little more complicated after next season when forwards Alex Steen, Jaden Schwartz, and Tyler Bozak, as well as BOTH goalies (Jordan Binnington and Jake Allen) will all be eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou also provide some nice long-term potential at forward, with Thomas being especially intriguing. The team’s first-round pick (No. 20 overall) in 2017 has already shown flashes of top-line ability and is one of their best play-making forwards at even-strength. Still only 20 years old, big things could be in his future. He still has one more season after this one on his entry-level deal. Given how good he has already been, the potential he still has, and his current contract status he could be one of the Blues’ most valuable assets next season.
On defense, Colton Parayko, Justin Faulk, Marco Scandella and Robert Bortuzzo are all signed to long-term deals, while Dunn is still under team control as a restricted free agent after this season.
Overall, it remains a top-tier team in the NHL in the short-term and should still be a Stanley Cup contender.
Getting Pietrangelo re-signed would probably be at the top of the list.
He is their captain, their top defenseman, and if he leaves they do not really have another option to take over that role. With Parayko, Faulk, Dunn, and Bortuzzo there would still be a solid defense there, but none of those players really fills the No. 1 defender spot. It is also unlikely -- if not impossible -- they would be able to find anyone comparable to Pietrangelo on the open market.
Scott Perunovich is probably their top prospect, and he does have a lot of potential on the blue line, but he has yet to play a game of professional hockey and is a long way off from being able to fill a top-pairing or meaningful role.
Beyond that, their farm system as a whole is not the strongest and they have some fairly significant free agents over the next two years that they will need to do with -- including the two goalies.
In the more immediate future they have an outstanding goalie with Binnington and Allen in place, and that is also probably the one position in their farm system that has some potential long-term options.
Their biggest strength, though, is simply the players they have at the top of their lineup.
Acquiring O’Reilly from the Buffalo Sabres before the 2018-19 season has turned out to be an enormous win for the organization. Not only because it gave them a bonafide No. 1 center that could drive play at both ends of the ice, but because it cost them almost nothing of consequence to get him. He scores at a top-line rate, is a sensational defensive player, and plays big, tough minutes against other team’s best players while being able to stay out of the penalty box. At a $7.5 million salary cap hit that is an enormous bargain.
Then there is Tarasenko.
He has been one of the NHL’s most dangerous goal-scorers for the past six years and can be a game-changing talent when he is on the ice. The Blues did not really get a chance to experience much of that this season due to injury, but he is a star and might be the one player on this roster that might (emphasis on might) have Hall of Fame potential if he continues on his current path.
MORE Blues: • Looking at the 2019-20 St. Louis Blues • Blues biggest surprises and disappointments so far