Zdeno Chara surpassed 1,500 career games, Claude Julien reached 1,200 games behind the bench, the Toronto Maple Leafs are facing injuries and backup goaltender struggles, Taylor Hall reportedly won’t sign an extension with the New Jersey Devils, the 2019 NHL Global Series happened and the 2020 NHL Global Series was announced.
The Detroit Red Wings beat the Boston Bruins, 4-2, at Little Caesars Arena on Friday– winning for just the 2nd time in their last 14 games.
Jonathan Bernier (3-4-1 record, 3.35 goals against average, .891 save percentage in 10 games played) made 26 saves on 28 shots against for a .929 SV% in the win.
The Red Wings goaltender also had two assists in the effort.
Boston netminder, Tuukka Rask (7-2-1, 1.99 GAA, .933 SV% in 10 games played) stopped 28 out of 31 shots faced for a .903 SV% in the loss.
Boston fell to 11-3-2 (24 points) on the season, but still in command of 1st place in the Atlantic Division, while Detroit improved to 5-12-1 (11 points) so far this season. The Red Wings are still 8th in the Atlantic.
The Bruins fell to 4-3-1 on the road this season, while the Red Wings snapped a four-game losing streak in their win over the B’s.
Boston also fell to 9-2-1 when scoring the game’s first goal this season and 1-2-1 when trailing after two periods.
The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), Joakim Nordstrom (infection), Par Lindholm (upper body), David Backes (upper body) and Jake DeBrusk (lower body) on Friday, but Miller, Lindholm and Nordstrom all practiced with the team while wearing red no-contact sweaters on Thursday at Warrior Ice Arena.
Per B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, Nordstrom is the closest among the three to returning to the lineup.
Miller and Moore have yet to make their 2019-20 season debuts, while DeBrusk is still being evaluated and did not travel with the team to Detroit.
In an official scoring change made after Tuesday night’s loss in Montreal, Zach Senyshyn had an assist added to Connor Clifton and Anders Bjork’s goals against the Canadiens, yielding two assists for Senyshyn in his season debut in the process.
Peter Cehlarik and Senyshyn were recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Thursday after Senyshyn and Cameron Hughes were originally assigned to Providence earlier in the week on Wednesday.
With DeBrusk out of the lineup, Cehlarik took over the second line left wing slot alongside David Krejci at center and Danton Heinen on right wing.
Senyshyn remained in his third line right wing spot with Bjork and Charlie Coyle.
Brett Ritchie (upper body) did not take part in warmups prior to Boston’s matchup with the Red Wings and was a late scratch from the lineup.
In his place, the Bruins went with seven defenders, allowing Steven Kampfer to join the lineup on the fourth line right wing in place of Ritchie– resulting in no healthy scratches for the B’s on Friday.
Kampfer, however, did not play a shift in Detroit.
On defense, Cassidy switched his first and third pairings up, moving Clifton to the first defensive pairing with Zdeno Chara to start the game and placing Charlie McAvoy with Matt Grzelcyk on the third pairing.
Krejci (2) kicked things off with the game’s first goal 69 seconds into the first period after Cehlarik worked the puck into the attacking zone, circled back towards the slot and found Krejci for the wrist shot goal on Bernier’s short side.
Cehlarik (1) had the only assist on Krejci’s goal and the Bruins jumped out to the, 1-0, lead.
But it was short lived.
Roughly 90 seconds after Boston scored, Dylan Larkin (5) skated past Clifton, wrapped around the net and banked the puck off of Patrice Bergeron’s skate and into the twine, tying the game, 1-1, in the process.
Madison Bowey (3) and Bernier (1) notched the assists on Larkin’s goal as the Red Wings pulled even at 2:41 of the first period.
A minute later, David Pastrnak hooked Detroit blue liner, Dennis Cholowski and was sent to the penalty box with a minor infraction at 3:40.
The Bruins managed to kill off Pastrnak’s minor, but went undisciplined midway through the opening frame as Brad Marchand took an interference penalty against Filip Hronek at 11:12.
Detroit only needed 37 seconds on the ensuing power play to capitalize on the skater advantage with Robby Fabbri (2) snapping a shot past Rask to give the Red Wings their first lead of the night, 2-1.
Tyler Bertuzzi (9) and Anthony Mantha (7) tallied the assists on Fabbri’s first goal with the Red Wings since being acquired by Detroit in a trade with the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday.
The Blues acquired Jacob de la Rose in the transaction.
Fabbri’s first goal of the night came at 11:49 of the first period.
Less than a minute later, Bowey was guilty of holding Heinen, but the B’s weren’t able to convert on the resulting power play opportunity.
After one period at Little Caesars Arena, the Red Wings led, 2-1, and shots on goal were even, 12-12.
Boston led in blocked shots (6-4) and takeaways (1-0) heading into the first intermission, while Detroit held the advantage in giveaways (6-2), hits (9-7) and faceoff win percentage (57-43).
The Red Wings were 1/2 on the power play heading into the second period and the Bruins were 0/1.
Pastrnak hooked Larkin 28 seconds into the second period and presented Detroit with an early skater advantage to begin the middle frame.
Fabbri (3) made sure to capitalize on the power play opportunity, acting as the bumper in the slot and scoring his 2nd goal of the night on a one-timer at 1:30 of the second period.
He became the 7th player in Red Wings history to score two or more goals in his team debut.
Bertuzzi (10) and Cholowski (4) had the assists on Fabbri’s 2nd power play goal of the game and Detroit led, 3-1.
Torey Krug sent the puck over the glass and out of play, yielding an automatic delay of game penalty at 3:30.
Detroit’s resulting power play opportunity was cut short as Larkin tripped up Chara behind the Boston net at 3:50, resulting in 4-on-4 action for a 1:41 span before the Bruins would have an abbreviated power play.
The B’s did not score on the skater advantage.
Midway through the second period, Marchand and Hronek exchanged pleasantries and dropped the gloves. Each received a five-minute major for fighting at 11:16.
It was just the 2nd fight of the season for the Bruins (previous, Ritchie vs. Barclay Goodrow on Oct. 29th against the San Jose Sharks).
A couple of minutes later, things were still chippy as Krejci was penalized for roughing Valtteri Filppula at 13:35.
In response, shortly after failing to convert on the skater advantage, Filppula tripped Pastrnak at 15:56 and elicited a power play chance for the Bruins.
With only seconds to spare on the advantage, Krug ripped a shot from the point that was deflected by Bergeron (8) in front of the net to cut Detriot’s lead to one-goal.
Krug (11) and Krejci (5) had the assists on Bergeron’s power play goal as the Bruins trailed, 3-2, at 17:52.
Through 40 minutes of action in Detroit, the Red Wings led, 3-2, on the scoreboard, but trailed Boston in shots on goal, 24-22– including a, 12-10, advantage for the B’s in the second period alone.
Detroit held the advantage in blocked shots (10-9), giveaways (12-2), hits (17-14) and faceoff win% (52-48), while Boston led in takeaways (3-0).
The Red Wings were 2/5 on the skater advantage and the Bruins were 1/3 on the power play entering the third period,
Early in the final frame, Bowey slashed Marchand and was sent to the sin bin with a minor infraction at 4:34 of the third period.
Boston did not score on the ensuing power play.
Neither team found the back of the net until the Bruins pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker with about two minutes left in regulation.
Shortly thereafter, Mantha (10) pocketed an empty net goal at 18:32 and sealed the deal on the win for the Red Wings.
Bernier (2) had the only assist on the goal as Detroit finished the night with a, 4-2, win over Boston– dominating the third period in shots on goal, 10-4, bolstering their total shots on net advantage to, 32-28.
The Red Wings finished Friday night’s action leading in blocked shots (15-11), giveaways (17-7) and hits (27-21), while the Bruins finished the night leading in faceoff win% (51-49).
Detroit went 2/5 on the power play and Boston went 1/4 on the skater advantage.
The Bruins return home on Sunday for a two-game homestand against the Philadelphia Flyers (Sunday, Nov. 10th) and the Florida Panthers next Tuesday (Nov. 12th) before traveling to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs next Friday (Nov. 15th).
St. Louis Blues
45-28-9, 99 points, 3rd in the Central Division
Defeated Boston in the Stanley Cup Final
Additions: F Dakota Joshua (acquired from TOR), F Nick Lappin, F Evan Polei, F Michael Vecchione, F Nathan Walker, D Andreas Borgman (acquired from TOR), D Jake Dotchin, D Justin Faulk (acquired from CAR), D Derrick Pouliot
Subtractions: F Conner Bleackley (signed with Idaho, ECHL), F Dominik Bokk (traded to CAR), F Pat Maroon (signed with TBL), F Nikita Soshnikov (KHL), D Chris Butler (retired), D Michael Del Zotto (signed with ANA), D Joel Edmundson (re-signed, then traded to CAR), D Jani Hakanpaa (signed with ANA), D Jakub Jerabek (KHL), D Jordan Schmaltz (traded to TOR), D Tyler Wotherspoon (signed with PHI), G Jared Coreau (signed with NYI)
Still Unsigned: F Chris Thorburn
Re-signed: F Ivan Barbashev, F Sammy Blais, F Robby Fabbri, F Zach Sanford, F Oskar Sundqvist, D Carl Gunnarsson, G Jordan Binnington, G Ville Husso
Offseason Analysis: Winning the Stanley Cup cures everything. Nobody’s asking when and if the St. Louis Blues will ever a) make another appearance in the Stanley Cup Final or b) winning the Cup.
The Blues crossed off the top item from their bucket list and hoisted the Stanley Cup over their heads in Boston after winning Game 7 against the Bruins in June.
General Manager, Doug Armstrong, has been building and retooling the organization since assuming his current role in 2010. A finalist for the NHL General Manager of the Year Award last season, Armstrong landed a key piece of St. Louis’ Cup-winning roster (and Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP) in Ryan O’Reilly last offseason in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres.
St. Louis won the Cup, so now Armstrong’s task of winning one is taken care of. He– along with the rest of the Blues– will have a bit of a grace period until fans are fed up again with whatever behooves them next.
Of course, the goal of winning the Cup for any GM ultimately isn’t to just win it once, but rather to win it as many times as possible in your career.
Armstrong took care of a delicate balance in re-signed a plethora of restricted free agent members of the Blues.
Rather than making Jordan Binnington the surefire franchise goaltender, Armstrong was able to negotiate a solid two-year bridge deal worth $4.400 million per season.
The 26-year-old goaltender took over St. Louis’ starting role at the dawn of the new year in January and– even though he set a National Hockey League rookie record for most wins in the postseason with 16– has yet to solidify his legitimacy as a starting goaltender in the NHL.
Binnington and 29-year-old, Jake Allen, each have two years on their respective contracts. This season, one will rise above the other as the starter (likely Binnington), but for the next couple of seasons each are competing for a long-term role with the organization.
Glue guys, Ivan Barbashev, Sammy Blais, Robby Fabbri, Zach Sanford, Oskar Sundqvist and Carl Gunnarsson are all sticking around in St. Louis for the near future, with Sundqvist extended for the longest tenure on a new four-year deal worth $2.750 million per season.
The Blues can sit back for a season or two and see if Craig Berube and Co. can recreate the magic of their 52nd season in franchise history.
Whether or not this team has what it takes to formulate a dynasty remains to be seen, but Armstrong bolstered their chances after trading Joel Edmundson, Dominik Bokk and a 2021 7th round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes for veteran defender, Justin Faulk, and a 2020 5th round pick on Sept. 24th.
Carolina retained 14% of Faulk’s salary ($676,667), which means he will carry a $4.157 million cap hit for the Blues this season.
Upon his acquisition, Armstrong locked up the defender to a seven-year extension with St. Louis worth $45.500 million ($6.500 million per season). Faulk’s extension goes into effect next season and carries a no-trade clause for the first five years, then a modified no-trade clause for the remainder.
A full no-trade clause was added by the Blues to the final year of his current deal.
If nothing else, this trade covers Armstrong’s back in case he is unable to sign Blues captain, Alex Pietrangelo, to an extension.
The 29-year-old defender is a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end and likely to see a pay raise from his current $6.500 million cap hit (especially considering, 1) his role in St. Louis’ turnaround, 2) his Stanley Cup ring and 3) the fact that Faulk’s extension carries Pietrangelo’s current cap hit).
In short, Pietrangelo is better than Faulk and best while the two of them are on the same blue line.
Armstrong will also have to balance the books next season by deciding whether or not to re-sign Brayden Schenn, Fabbri, Blais, Dunn, Jay Bouwmeester and Mackenzie MacEachern.
For now, bars across St. Louis will keep playing “Gloria” even as the team on the ice must turn the page on last season and focus on what looms this season and beyond.
Offseason Grade: B-
Considering the number of RFAs Armstrong had to re-sign, the Blues GM managed to do a decent job tidying things up for the time being, but most of the extensions were short term, one or two year deals.
St. Louis has about $138,740 in cap space available, leaving them with little to no room for any major extensions for next season without having to unload some larger contracts from the books.
At the very least, the only major loss from last season’s Cup winning roster to this season was Pat Maroon, who signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning due to St. Louis’ cap constraints.
For the first time since the 1974 Stanley Cup Final, the Boston Bruins won Game 1 in a Stanley Cup Final as the Bruins scored four unanswered goals to win in a comeback, 4-2, over the St. Louis Blues.
Boston leads the series 1-0 thanks to Sean Kuraly’s game-winning goal in the third period and Brad Marchand’s empty net insurance goal thereafter.
Tuukka Rask (13-5 record, 1.85 goals against average, .940 save percentage in 18 games played this postseason) made 18 saves on 20 shots against (.900 SV%) in the win for the Bruins.
St. Louis goaltender, Jordan Binnington (12-8, 2.40 GAA, .915 SV% in 20 GP) stopped 34 out of 37 shots faced (.919 SV%) in the loss, which was the Blues’ ninth-straight loss to the B’s in a playoff series.
The Bruins improved to 9-0 in nine all-time playoff contests against St. Louis, joining the Edmonton Oilers (16-0 against the original Winnipeg Jets from 1983 to 1988) and Montreal Canadiens (12-0 against the Blues from 1968 to 1977) as the third team in NHL history to win each of its first nine-plus playoff games against one opponent.
Since the best-of-seven series format was adopted for the Stanley Cup Final in 1939, the team that won Game 1 went on to win the Cup in 61 out of 79 series’ (a 77.2% success rate).
Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, kept his lineup the same from Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final in Carolina to Game 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final in Boston.
Zdeno Chara, David Krejci and Marchand were all good to go after missing practice time for various reasons, while Kevan Miller (lower body) and Chris Wagner (upper body) are out for the Final.
Boston’s long list of healthy scratches this time of year included Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Peter Cehlarik, John Moore, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.
St. Louis head coach, Craig Berube, was without the service of Vince Dunn (upper body) for Game 1. In addition, the Blues had a long list of healthy scratches of their own, including Robby Fabbri, Michael Del Zotto, Zach Sanford, Mackenzie MacEachern, Chris Thorburn and Ville Husso.
A little over a few minutes into the opening frame, Kuraly tripped up Brayden Schenn– catching a skate behind his leg– yielding the first power play of the series to St. Louis at 3:37 of the first period.
The Blues did not convert on their first skater advantage opportunity.
A couple of minutes after killing off Kuraly’s minor infraction, the Bruins couldn’t clear their own zone as the Blues sneaked their way around the attacking zone with ease.
Charlie McAvoy dove to block a shot that Schenn (3) ripped over the blocker side of Rask for the first goal of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final– and first Stanley Cup Final for the Blues since 1970.
St. Louis’ leading scorer, Jaden Schwartz (5), had the primary assist, while Jay Bouwmeester (6) picked up the secondary assist on Schenn’s goal at 7:23 of the first period. The Blues led, 1-0.
Past the midpoint of the first period, David Perron tripped Danton Heinen and was sent to the penalty box at 13:15.
Boston was not able to capitalize on their first power play of the night, despite Marcus Johansson ringing the far right post on an individual scoring chance.
Late in the period, Robert Thomas hooked Patrice Bergeron and sent the Blues back on the penalty kill at 16:45.
This time on the power play, the B’s struggled to maintain offensive zone time, but mustered a quick one-timer opportunity in the closing seconds of the skater advantage that Marchand fanned on while Binnington was behind the play.
Through one period of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, St. Louis led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, while both teams had eight shots on goal aside.
Boston led in blocked shots (5-2), while the Blues led in takeaways (5-3), giveaways (4-3), hits (12-11) and face-off win percentage (57-43).
Neither team had found the back of the net on the power play, as St. Louis went 0/1 in the first period and the Bruins went 0/2.
One minute into the middle frame, Vladimir Tarasenko (9) received a pass while breaking into the slot and one-time a wrist shot past Rask after David Pastrnak botched a play behind the net intended for one of his defenders.
Instead, Pastrnak’s turnover went right to Schenn then Tarasenko to make it, 2-0, St. Louis at 1:00 of the second period. Schenn (6) had the only assist on the goal.
A little over a minute later, Boston answered back in a hurry and cut the Blues’ lead in half, 2-1, with a one-timed tip-in of their own from Connor Clifton (2) on a pass through the slot from Kuraly while Binnington was left in the dust behind the play– reaching around with his blocker in desperation.
Kuraly (4) and Joakim Nordstrom (3) had the assists on Clifton’s goal at 2:16 of the second period and the Bruins were on the scoreboard.
Moments later, Joel Edmundson caught former Blues captain, David Backes, with a high-stick to the face and presented the B’s with their third power play opportunity of the night at 5:25.
Boston did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
Past the midpoint of regulation, Oskar Sundqvist cross-checked Clifton in front of the Bruins bench at 11:04 and was sent to the sin bin for his deed.
Late in the ensuing power play, McAvoy waltzed in through the neutral zone after St. Louis barely cleared the zone and broke through the penalty killers.
McAvoy (2) ripped a shot past Binnington’s glove side through the seven-hole to tie the game, 2-2, with an unassisted power play goal at 12:41.
After 40 minutes of play, the scoreboard remained tied, 2-2, heading into the second intermission. The Bruins led in shots on goal, 26-11, and had an, 18-3, advantage in the second period alone.
Boston also led in takeaways (7-6) and giveaways (8-7), while St. Louis led in face-off win% (53-47). Both teams had seven blocked shots and 21 hits aside.
The Blues were 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the third period, while the B’s were 1/4 on the power play.
About a quarter of a way into the third period, Kuraly (3) stashed the puck into the back of the net after receiving a pass off his right leg and kicking the puck to his stick.
Noel Acciari (2) and Chara (3) tallied the assists on Kuraly’s would-be game-winning goal at 5:21 of the third period after both Bruins worked hard to keep the puck in the attacking zone.
Chara became the first Bruin age 42 or older to record a point in the Stanley Cup Final since Mark Recchi did so in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final at the age of 43. Recchi had 3-4–7 totals in seven games en route to Boston defeating the Vancouver Canucks.
Almost 90 seconds later, Krejci clipped Sammy Blais with an unintentional elbow to the head while Blais lost his balance and was falling in the neutral zone.
Nevertheless, by the book, it was the right call as Krejci took a short skate to the penalty box at 6:55 of the third period.
Blais was drafted by the Blues in the 6th round (176th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft after St. Louis acquired what was originally a conditional 7th round pick in 2014 from Boston in exchange for defenseman, Wade Redden, on April 3, 2013.
The Blues had one shot on goal on the resulting power play.
After being on the receiving end of a penalty, Blais put his name on the event sheet with an interference minor of his own at 13:28, yielding the fifth power play of the night for the Bruins.
Boston did not score on the ensuing skater advantage.
Late in the final frame of regulation, after a stoppage of play with 2:13 remaining on the clock, Berube used his timeout and had his assistant coach, Steve Ott, draw up a way to try to tie the game.
Prior to play resuming, Berube pulled Binnington for an extra attacker.
It did not take St. Louis long to lose possession of the puck as Marchand started heading through the neutral zone, dumping the puck just wide of the empty net, whereby Krejci chased it down and the Blues tried to bail out of their own zone.
Marchand (8) came up with the rubber biscuit and pocketed an empty net goal to give the B’s a two-goal lead, 4-2, at 18:11.
St. Louis pulled their goaltender once more with about 1:28 left on the clock in regulation, but it was too little, too late as time expired and the Bruins won Game 1.
Boston finished the night dominating in shots on goal (38-20), blocked shots (12-7) and face-off win% (54-46), while the Blues led in hits (33-32).
Each team had 10 giveaways aside, the Notes went 0/2 on the skater advantage.
The Bruins finished Monday night 1/5 on the power play.
As a result of their win, the B’s have now won eight consecutive postseason games– their third longest playoff winning streak in franchise history (behind runs of 10-0 in 1970 and 9-0 in 1972). Boston is outscoring their opponent, 32-11, in the current streak.
Kuraly’s game-winning goal was the 28th time the Bruins won a playoff game in which they trailed by two-plus goals– and the first time they did so in the Final.
Game 1 also marked the 5th time that Boston had multiple defenders score a goal (Clifton and McAvoy) in a Stanley Cup Final game– and the first time since Game 2 (Ray Bourque and Greg Hawgood) of the 1990 Stanley Cup Final against Edmonton.
The B’s trailed more in Game 1 against St. Louis than they did in their entire series against the Carolina Hurricanes (13:08) and pulled off the first multi-goal comeback win in the Stanley Cup Final since the Los Angeles Kings beat the New York Rangers, 5-4, in double overtime in Game 2 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.
Monday night marked the 100th game of the regular season and playoffs for Boston.
The Bruins are hosting the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1990, as the series shifts to Game 2 on Wednesday. Puck drop at TD Garden is expected a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune in on NBCSN. Canadian fans have an array of options to choose from to catch the action on CBC, SN or TVAS.
This week’s episode is chock full of coffee infused, Seattle inspired, artisanal Seattle expansion discussion in addition to William Nylander’s new deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Plus, waivers and trades are rampant this time of year, Tom Wilson: The Bad and the Bad Things That Happened This Week, Chuck Fletcher was hired as General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers and a 15-year first round draft pick look back of the Los Angeles Kings.
Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the St. Louis Blues and their outlook for the summer.
One game. One game made all the difference for the St. Louis Blues in making or missing the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs and you’ll never guess what happened.
Yes, after compiling a 44-31-6 record, the Blues were ahead of the Colorado Avalanche by one point in the wild card race to secure the last spot in the postseason.
Despite a season-long lackluster performance in goal from Jake Allen (a career worst 2.75 goals against average and second worst .906 save percentage in 59 games played), St. Louis needed a win in any fashion in the final game of the regular season against the Avs to go up against the Nashville Predators in the First Round.
Instead, the club finished 44-32-6 on the season with 94 points– one point out of the wild card spot– and 5th in the Central Division.
Mike Yeo missed the playoffs in his first year as head coach of the Blues without any assistance from Ken Hitchcock and General Manager Doug Armstrong was left scratching his head.
2018 NHL Entry Draft
Fans were left scratching their heads after Armstrong traded hometown hero Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets in a surprise move at the trade deadline in exchange for a 2018 first round pick (29th overall) and prospect Erik Foley.
Stastny’s dad, Peter– the famous Québec Nordique– was left stunned.
Armstrong replaced the first round pick that he swapped with the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2017 Draft as part of the Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first round pick and a conditional 2018 first round pick for Brayden Schenn transaction, but at the cost of one of the better faceoff-winning centers in the league.
With the 29th overall selection in this year’s draft, Armstrong will be left picking the best available or surprising everyone– yet again– and going off the board.
Hopefully for the better, considering the organization is teetering on the edge of a retooling/rebuild.
Pending free agents
What else is there to expect from a front office that’s had to move Kevin Shattenkirk and T.J. Oshie, while letting David Backes walk in free agency in years past, thanks to a tight salary cap situation?
Armstrong can make some sweeping changes by figuring out the future of St. Louis’s crease protection plan (more on that later), but he can also restructure the team’s offensive outlook by ridding themselves of some underperforming second through fourth liners.
Thankfully, the Blues have about $12.900 million to spend with the cap expected to rise this summer.
That’s not a lot to work with, but it can bring in a difference maker, while still providing enough room to work a deal that might send Vladimir Sobotka and his $3.500 million cap hit through the 2019-20 season (or an equivalent) packing via a trade.
Upshall has loved St. Louis and its fans have responded in kind, but the time is now for the Blues to make a clean break in this relationship. He’s averaged 17 points over the last three seasons. That’s not great with an aging roster.
Brodziak, on the other hand, has bounced back from shortened seasons due to injury and doubled his point total from 15 points (69 games played) in 2016-17 to 33 points (81 GP) this season.
At first look, keeping a 34-year-old that was trending in the wrong direction when he came to St. Louis in 2015-16 isn’t great, but Brodziak is proving people wrong as part of a comeback tour with the Blues (albeit lasting three seasons). If you don’t re-sign Upshall, you can at least afford to bring back Brodziak.
But we’ll see what kind of logic Armstrong is working with this offseason.
Fabbri, 22, had 11-18–29 totals in 51 GP, down from his 18-19–37 totals in 72 games in 2016-17. That’s still respectable as a bottom-six forward, however.
Jaskin, 25, had six more points this season in 25 more games played than in 2016-17. That means he had 17 points in 76 GP this season and 11 points in 51 GP last season. The Blues can move on if they’d like.
Sundqvist, 24, was acquired last June along with a first round pick as part of the Ryan Reaves trade and had one goal and four assists (five points) in 42 games for St. Louis this season. That’s not great, but he finally played the most games he’s ever seen in one season, since breaking into the NHL in 2015-16 with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Soshnikov, 24, had one goal and one assist (two points) in 12 games with the Blues after being acquired in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He also had no points in three games with Toronto this season and has 8-8–16 totals in 82 career NHL games since 2015-16.
Unless Yeo can perform a miracle as a head coach, there’s no point in seeing if anything’s left in the potential tank.
Schmaltz had one assist in 13 games this season. He clearly isn’t part of St. Louis’s current plan, leaving one of two options– stick around as a depth blueliner or not return.
Edmundson set a career-high in goals (7) and points (17) in 69 games played this season. Nice. He’s a top-six defender and should see another year or two in a sweater with a giant blue music note on it.
If anyone’s willing to take on all or some of Jay Bouwmeester‘s $5.400 million cap hit with one year remaining– provided the 34-year-old defenseman waives his no-trade-clause– then St. Louis should pursue that avenue.
Okay, now for the future of St. Louis’s goaltending.
Jordan Binnington, 24, is a pending-RFA and should get a chance at the NHL level.
Then again, Carter Hutton, 32, is a pending-UFA and outplayed the 27-year-old starter, Jake Allen at times this season.
If St. Louis is fine staying the course as a middle of the road team that’ll come up short for a year or two, then there’s no need to worry and Hutton should be re-signed and see more time in net to offset Allen’s workload.
But if any of that clashes with what Armstrong and the rest of his front office envisions for the club, well… that’s the million dollar question.
A rebuild is not out of the question, but certainly frowned upon, given how star-forward, Vladimir Tarasenko is in his prime now.
Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:
1. Nashville Predators– 34-12-9 (77 points, 55 GP)
The Nashville Predators are amazing. They’re pulling off their spectacular season on the heels of last year’s Stanley Cup Final run with almost $3.000 million in salary tied up in buyouts.
They don’t need to add, but general manager David Poile still might work a little magic by adding without subtracting if he can. Mike Fisher, 37, is trying to come back from retirement because he believes Nashville’s time is now. Only time will tell if he can go from his current PTO to a one-year deal that just might get him his first taste from the Stanley Cup.
If Poile wants to add anything, he’s going to have to do so with about $3.200 million in cap space currently.
Potential assets to trade: Honestly, don’t.
2. Winnipeg Jets– 33-15-9 (75 points, 57 GP)
Injuries are beginning to mount for the Winnipeg Jets and it’ll be interesting to see what the GM Kevin Cheveldayoff does by February 26th considering his team’s current backup goaltender is 22-year-old, Eric Comrie. Their starter is 24-year-old, Connor Hellebuyck, who’s emerged as clear-cut starting goaltender this season (aside from his All-Star appearance back in January).
Winnipeg has about $5.400 million in cap space to play with as of this writing.
They are what should be a destination for rental players looking to take a team that’s on the verge of breaking out in the postseason deeper than they could ever imagine.
And the Jets have just enough to offer other teams to bring in the right pieces to the puzzle.
Potential assets to acquire: F Boone Jenner (CBJ), F Patrick Maroon (EDM), F Alex Galchenyuk (MTL), F Michael Grabner (NYR), D Nick Holden (NYR), F Jean-Gabriel Pageau (OTT), F Josh Leivo (TOR), F Thomas Vanek (VAN), F David Perron (VGK)
3. St. Louis Blues– 34-21-4 (72 points, 59 GP)
There’s almost $125,000 in cap space for the St. Louis Blues right now. While it’d be great for the Blues to add one or two of their missing pieces that’d send them right over the edge of victory (once-and-for-all), the better time to readjust appears to be this summer.
Besides, Joel Edmundson, Robby Fabbri and Carter Hutton will all need new contracts. Not that they’re going to cost St. Louis tens of millions of dollars, but it’ll likely mean that someone will have to get traded either at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft or later this summer.
Jay Bouwmeester is 34-years-old and has a $5.400 million cap hit through next season. He also has a no-trade-clause that could make things difficult for the foreseeable future, given that when the Blues are on their “A” game they can really make a claim for Cup contender status this season.
It’d be unwise to part with Bouwmeester now, but it only makes sense to do it later.
Just don’t get behind the eight ball is the best advice for St. Louis looking past the end of this month. Otherwise, salary cap hell isn’t all that fun.
Potential assets to trade: D Jay Bouwmeester
4. Dallas Stars– 33-20-4 (70 points, 57 GP)
The Dallas Stars currently cling to the first wild card spot in the Western Conference, though they trail the St. Louis Blues by two points for 3rd in the Central Division in what’s shaping up to be the tighter points battle in the West compared to the lackluster Pacific Division.
Yes, I’m fully aware Los Angeles did something to their defense Tuesday night, why do you ask?
The Central is all about racking up points while the Pacific bangs bodies off of each other in hopes of amounting to something more than your standard pylon.
So where do the Stars fit into the playoff picture? They should be in the running for at least a wild card spot coming down the stretch– and with almost $889,000 in cap space right now it’s going to be hard to add what they really need to push them over the hill.
While other teams in the league are searching for the right rental forward, the Stars should be looking for the right rental defenseman. Whether that’s a Mike Green or a Cody Franson, well, only Stars GM Jim Nill will know, based on what he must give up.
5. Minnesota Wild– 31-19-6 (68 points, 56 GP)
There’s good news and bad news for the Minnesota Wild as the trade deadline nears. The good news is that the Chicago Blackhawks are more than likely taking a pass on this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. The bad news is the Wild might do that too (oh, and Minnesota only has about $129,000 in cap room– with Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba as pending-RFAs this July).
For all of the talk regarding trading Jonas Brodin, there sure hasn’t been any radio chatter this time around as the deadline nears this month.
Though the Wild hold on to the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, there’s at least two California based teams (Los Angeles and Anaheim) that should be in the playoff picture coming down the wire.
If it’s make or break, then Minnesota has all the time in the world to wait and see what’s to come this summer.
But if they’re on the fence about determining whether to buy or sell, well, they could do a bit of both. If they’re looking for a quick retool, it’s within their means, but if they’re content with sinking before they swim, there’s always the reset (rebuild) button.
Potential assets to acquire: D Cody Franson (CHI), F Jordan Kyrou (STL), D Ben Hutton (VAN)
6. Colorado Avalanche– 31-21-4 (66 points, 56 GP)
In theory, the Colorado Avalanche could be buyers at this year’s trade deadline.
They’re in great shape cap-wise, with about $8.400 million to spend currently, but Avalanche general manager, Joe Sakic, knows it by now– the best thing to do for Colorado is let their youth gain experience, make minor moves until the offseason, then address specific needs.
Colorado has expendable components, but cannot touch its core.
With Matt Duchene out of the picture, the focus has turned to making the Avs– in every way– Nathan MacKinnon‘s team. Gabriel Landeskog‘s just along for the ride at this point. If he’s patient, many rewards may find their way to the Mile-High City. If he’s sick of waiting, Sakic might be forced to reap another surplus of players, picks and prospects like he did in the three-way Duchene deal.
After Francois Beauchemin‘s $4.500 million buyout penalty comes off the books at season’s end, the Avalanche will have at least $13 million to spend on giving backup-turned-potential-starting goaltender, Jonathan Bernier, a fair raise while also making decisions on several pending-RFAs.
Potential assets to acquire: Literally anyone, F Jeff Skinner (CAR), F Boone Jenner (CBJ), D Jack Johnson (CBJ), G Petr Mrazek (DET), F Gustav Nyqvist (DET), F Tomas Plekanec (MTL), D Ryan McDonagh (NYR), F Rick Nash (NYR), F Mike Hoffman (OTT), F Jean-Gabriel Pageau (OTT), G Aaron Dell (SJ), F Josh Leivo (TOR), F Nikita Soshnikov (TOR), D Ben Hutton (VAN), F James Neal (VGK), F David Perron (VGK), F Nic Petan (WPG)
7. Chicago Blackhawks– 24-25-8 (56 points, 57 GP)
Reward contracts have killed the Chicago Blackhawks dynasty. This is what drives parity in a salary cap league (see “Detroit Red Wings downfall since 1998, thanks to 2004-05”), so once again, welcome to the Salary Cap Era.
Depending on your methods of calculation, the Blackhawks will either have $0 to spend at the deadline or maybe up to about $3.100 million in wiggle room.
Regardless, they’re not buying this year. They’re buying for the future– so draft picks and prospects. One thing that might get in their way (other than the salary cap) is what they have to offer.
Large reward contracts were handed out to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews while Duncan Keith took a discount. Marian Hossa is on the books at a cap hit of $5.275 million through the end of the 2020-21 season, whether he plays or not.
If Hossa never plays again, Chicago can always place him on the long-term injured reserve (eh, just paperwork), buyout his contract (yikes) or trade him to a team like the Arizona Coyotes (preferable) who took on the large salary of Pavel Datsyuk in his final NHL-contract year just to meet the cap floor, knowing he had jettisoned for the KHL.
The bottom line is Chicago’s cash-strapped. Someone important is going to have to be dealt in order to protect the organization’s future endeavors.
With Toews and Kane at a combined $21.000 million cap hit through the 2022-23 season, unless the cap rises significantly, this just might keep the Blackhawks down in the dumps for a while.
Potential assets to acquire: Draft picks, prospects and cap room
Our hearts go out to everyone in Las Vegas as well as the family of Dave Strader. Jaromir Jagr watch comes to an end (sort of) and Nick and Connor have already moved on to the next guy. It’s Phil Kessel‘s birthday and two members of the Original Trio discuss training camp cut/non-cut surprises.