Ah, the Free Agency period. Time for teams to cripple themselves with poor talent analysis and owner-wants-a-splash insanity. Time for teams to get "the guy" at all costs only to be ridiculed for landing a 33-year-old with diminishing skills for four years and $25 million.
Thank god that won't be the Blues this year. The top-flight talent this year will all be commanding around $8 mil/year and the Blues won't have interest in any of them. Not because they don't have the cap room, which they do. The Blues have more cap room to spend than anyone in the league, excluding Buffalo. But Buffalo has a ton of break-out youngsters to qualify and will jump right past the Note. The Blues also need to make a spash in the PR department, just to give the season-ticket sales folks something good to talk about.
But they aren't going to go out and sign Chara. Or Elias. Or Jovanovski. Or Redden. Or even Jason Allison. Those guys don't fit the current mold of the team. They also don't have St. Louis on their radar. Good. The Blues made strides with their youngsters last year and don't need to make a splash with guys like that. They need to add guys who augment what we have and are ready for a steady 3-4 year climb.
If you look at the roster now, there are a lot of spots to add impact players. But I don't mean 'impact' like superstars. I mean 'impact' like upgrade players. Let's look at what we know. The Blues have Tkachuk. We have a solid D. We have a couple good goalies. Weight probably wants to come back (and will be healed from his Grade 3 separated shoulder enough to make camp).
So, here's where we are (as I see the talent). Oh, and when I say 'open' I mean we need a player added or from the minors:
The forward lines (LW/C/RW)
So let me explain, starting at the bottom of the list (goalies) and working up. I read a column by our local rag's hockey writer Jeremy Rutherford that makes me actually seriously consider cancelling my subscription to the local paper. Hell, I'll only miss the 4 caomics I actually read anyway.
Giving Rutherford a pass, I assume he is the Blues beat writer because he is the low man on the totem over at the Past-DickPatch, which probably means that he's a huge baseball guy and can't wait to move up to the Birdwatch rotation. But Cheese and flippin Rice, if you're going to print shit in the paper and online with your name on it, run it by a hockey guy first.
To suggest that the Blues might land JS Giguere ($3.99 million) or Evgeni Nabokov ($3.63 million) to BACK UP Curtis fucking Sanford is some of the dumbest hockey reporting I've ever seen. Look, Curtis played well for a bad (re: BAD) Blues team. He won some games that Patrick Latrine and/or Reinhard Divis would have lost. He was almost always solid, if seldom spectacular. But if either Giguere or Nabokov were to pull on a blue Note any time in the next couple months, then they have the No 1 job to lose.
And here's the other gotdamn thing about this: Sanford and Bacashihua have to go through waivers in order to go to (lovely) Peoria this year. Bacashihua would never make it through waivers (he's no Lalime, after all). So, if Sanford is No 1 and you've traded Cash for Giguere or Nabokov, you better be sure that you are trading for a No 1 guy, because I think Cash is closer to dominant starter than Sanford is. Trading him for a $3 million+ guy to be the BACK UP would be roundly panned by every hockey person in the NHL. Smarten up, Jeremy. Or at least run your shit past a guy who has seen a hockey game before.
So, bottom line is that I think the Blues go with the pair they have, or they trade one of these guys to upgrade, not land a back up. I'd hate to see Cash go, because I think he's the real deal. But if he lands us Nabokov, who I think is just coming into his prime, then I pretend we never had Cash and focus on Nabokov for the next few years followed by our prospect Schwartz following him. Nabokov/Sanford with Schwartz in the wings seems solid in net. Especially for a team that hasn't had a solid no-question netminder since...well, I'd argue since back before I was born. But I'll tackle the "Fuhr and CuJo were never dominant" issue later.
Defense. I am not very interested in adding blueliners to this group. While, as I've said all along, I think Brewer ends up getting moved so he can escape the "traded for Pronger" tag (unless the Blues add Erik Johnson and apply the "next Pronger" tag to him, somehow freeing Brewer to be himself again), he who will not smile might be the only guy who changes on the blueline this year.
The Blues got a great gift in realizing that Wideman and Dallman were NHL-ready last year. Add to that the emergence of Christian Backman and a mid-season "oh, the rules changed" wake-up for Jackman and you have a solid blueline. Scott Jackson and Jeff "why do I keep getting traded" Woywitka need to have a great camp to make the top club, but it is possible. Add Erik Johnson to the mix and suddenly the Blues have a core that may not need an infusion. The only guys I'd consider to be good moves would be Pavel Kubina (29 years-old) and Jay McKee (28-years-old). These two guys are young enough to relate to the youthful blueliners and have had success giving everything they have to win a Cup, as Kubina was a stalwart in his 2004 run, while McKee lost the Cup when Brett Hull scored while he was/wasn't in the crease and gave everything he had in this year's run. Neither may be available as they could stay with their current teams, but if they aren't available, I'm not impressed with the other guys out there. They could be good, but they don't fit with where the Blues are right now.
But, Eric "The Visor" Weinrich is going to be available, too....
As far as forwards go, I think the Blues could really make the biggest impact in this area. Forget Elias (wants a winner) and Arnott (low-scoring underachieving power forwards need not apply) and Jason Allison (re-signing Weight fills our quota on fragile playmaking centers). Forget Marc Savard once someone gets to the $4 million threshold (he is a better Jan Hrdina - he needs a superstar to play with) and Sergei Samsonov (virtually invisible in the playoffs - I just can't deal with all the Pavol Demitra/Sergei Samsonov correlation articles I'll have to write).
Instead, let's be smart. Let's look at guys who are on the verge of breaking loose. Former Blue Marty Reasoner has fianlly figured out how to be a great two-way guy, using his speed to fore and backcheck, while adding a point every other game. Let's look at big Brad Isbister, who I swear is on the verge of breaking out. Power forwards always take longer to develop and playing with Tkachuk might just make things click with the 29-year-old. If he hadn't battled injuries all year.... Let's look at Brendan Shanahan. Detroit is not bringing him back and if the new regime wants to make a PR splash, this is the guy. We hated him in the horrible Wing, but we can forgive that if he comes back here to play on the second line. Tkachuk on the top line, Shanny on the second line? Sure, it's a lineup that would have been at its best 3-4 years ago, but he's a natural Captain candidate and PR coup.
Granted, I'd like to see the Blues add guys like Straka and Peca and Parrish and Rucchin, but I don't see it for various reasons. None of them have any reason to want to come here - they all want to win now. So, I think the Blues are better off looking at hometown guys that we can pull with heartstrings or offers of more ice. Adding Shanahan, Isbister and Reasoner probably adds too much power and not enough speed, but i expect at least one youngster to make the team based on hard work and quicks.
So, what does my 'dream' add do to our team? Let's look.
The forward lines (LW/C/RW)
1. Sanford/Acquired through trade
2. Bacashihua/Sanford (if No 1 acquired throgh trade for Bacashihua)
Fantasy league crap, I know. Not a Stanley Cup squad, I know. Playoff team? Maybe. But that team is fun and exciting. And better than last year. And that's all we really want this year anyway.
Hopefully the Blues can add some guys more exciting than that. But I think adding a few guys like Nabokov and Isbister (potential still above them) and former Blues who can put asses in seats (Shanahan and Reasoner) are the way forward.
Anyone who talks to you about Elias and Lidstrom is just full of crap. And anyone who says Nabokov or Giguere could be brought in as the back up is just plain crazy.
Or just a baseball fan in hockey fan clothing.