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2009 NHL Free Agency Primer For The St. Louis Blues

The NHL realizes there is a ton of summer left before training camp starts, right? So there's really no good reason for free agency to open less than a week before the draft. But alas, it's already upon us with signings beginning Wednesday. It will be interesting to see how quickly players start agreeing to contracts after the period opens. Because teams and agents would never start talking early.

So the Blues with the buying out of Fragile Jay McKee's contract now have a little more cap room. They've got one glaring opening. Let's take a little closer look.

Pending Unrestricted Free Agents: Manny Legace, Trent Whitfield and Dan Hinote.

Pending Restricted Free Agents: B.J. Crombeen, Chris Porter, Steve Regier, Roman Polak, Jeff Woywitka, Steve Wagner.

Salary Cap Space: About $10 million. We think. The rookie contracts with potential bonuses built in makes it a little more difficult to get it right.

Blues' budget for payroll: Good question.

Key needs: Backup goaltender. Backup goaltender. Backup goaltender.  And we think they're going cheap. There's been talk about Josh Harding, the restricted free agent in Minnesota. Judging by the Blues' response last summer when the Canucks went after David Backes and the number of young players who could hit RFA status in the next couple years, I don't think they want to go that route for fear of having the tables turned on them in short order. So they need a guy to spell the bearded yet shaved Chris Mason. And I think they learned their lesson last year signing an expensive goaltender that gives the incumbent goalie night sweats and fear of losing his job.

Oh, and they better sign Roman Polak or there's going to be some nasty shit on this blog in short order if another team comes in and snatches him up.

I guess they could use a puck-moving defenseman with the added adjective of affordable. And Paul Kariya and his $6 million contract will come off the books next year, so it's concievable they could go after a forward in that salary neighborhood, but I don't expect them to do that.

Potential targets: Ty Conklin was good enough to play backup to Chris Osgood. I'd think he's good enough to play backup for Mason. Craig Anderson is young and cheap. But he could be looking for a better chance to compete for the starting job. Antero Niitymaki would keep Gallagher up at night making sure his name was spelled right on every page of the paper. Curtis Joseph is available, right? That would be "fun."

Who would you like to see the Blues pursue? And if you say Marian "Non Smyth Trophy Winner" Hossa, be prepared to face some ridicule. Tell us down below in the comments.