My take on 2014-2015

Goalies - $3.3 M

1. re-sign Brian Elliot - 2 years, $5 M ($2.5 M per season) 2. Jake Allen - $0.8 M Let Ryan Miller go.

Defensemen - $26.425 M

1. Jay Bouwmeester - $6.68 M 2. Alex Pietrangelo - $6.5 M 3. Kevin Shattenkirk - $4.25 M 4. Barret Jackman - $3.17 M 5. Roman Polak - $2.75 M 6. Jordan Leopold - $2.25 M 7. Ian Cole - $0.825 M Let Carlo Colaiacovo go.

Forwards - $30.972 M
1. Alex Steen - $5.8 M 2. David Backes - $4.5 M 3. TJ Oshie - $4.175 M 4. re-sign Steve Ott - 2 years, $8 M ($4.0 M per season) 5. re-sign Patrik Berglund - 1 year at the same price of $3.25 M 6. re-sign Vladimir Sobotka - 4 years, $12 M ($3 M per season) 7. Magnus Pajaarvi - $1.2 M 8. Ryan Reaves - $1.125 M 9. Vladdy Tarasenko - $0.9 M 10. Jaden Schwartz - $0.851 M 11. Dimitrij Jaskin - $0.773 M 12. Ty Rattie - $0.773 M 13. Chris Porter - $0.625M
Release Maxim Lapierre (costs Blues $0.3 M to buy out this year and $0.4 M in the 2015-2016 season - I'd still do it.)

Totals ~$61.0 M
The salary cap for the 2014-2015 season is set at $71.1 M. That would give the Blues a LOT of wiggle room, were they to get those players for the prices listed above. I think that if:
  • Elliot wants more of a raise than ~40%, let him go.
  • Ott wants more of a raise than ~35%, let him go.
  • Berglund gets more money elsewhere than what he made last year, let him go.
  • Sobotka wants more of a raise than ~230%, let him go.
From what I am hearing/reading, Ryan Miller's cap hit will be between $6 and $7 M. That is too high priced for me at this time, when I personally believe Jake Allen will be better than him sooner rather than later. If Elliot were to sign elsewhere for bigger than $2.5M, then the goalies I would look at to share time with Allen are (in order):
  1. Jonas Hiller - if he'll take $3 M this coming year and $2 M the year after that (for a cap hit of $2.5 M per season), I would make that deal in a heart beat. I don't know if he can be signed that cheaply after making $4.5 M each of the last 3 years. He'll only be 33 next year, so I'm guessing he's going to try to cash in one more time over a 2 year deal. It might be worth going as high as $3.5 and $2.5 M over the two seasons, but I wouldn't give more with Allen on the way.
  2. Thomas Vokoun - Vokoun is now going to be 38 years old next season, so he might take less than Hiller. I'd offer him $2 M per year for two seasons, paying him a total of $4 M to split time with Allen, then be his backup when the team sees he's ready. If not...
  3. Mike McKenna - He's a St. Louis native. He's been Jake Allen's backup in Peoria for a season before. McKenna might just be the guy who can play 20 games and you say "FREE JAKE ALLEN" for 62 games a season, getting 3-4 nights off a month.
Even assuming the Blues only have $9 M to play with this offseason, they still need to do some major re-signings soon. You would not want to eat all of that money. Looking ahead to next offseason, the Blues will need to re-sign Vladimir Tarasenko (the best goal scorer on the club) and possibly Jaden Schwartz before then as well. On defense, they will have to sign or find replacements for Barret Jackman and Jordan Leopold. That said, the Blues have two very impressive defensive defensemen in the minor leagues in Joel Edmundson and Jani Hakanpaa - who are both supposed to be VERY good. I don't want to lose Jax, though. I want him to be a Blue for life. My guess is that if anyone in professional sports would take a "hometown discount" it'd be him and he'll sign for 2 years and $5-6 M total to end his career in STL. I have been wrong before, though - *cough* Albert *cough*
My guess is the Blues try to leave a few million open, but here is what I would do. After watching highlight reels, I am absolutely enamored with another St. Louis native - Paul Stastny. I realize that every team with cap space and a problem at forward will be going after him. However, I think that if you pair Schwartz and Tarasenko with Stastny for the next 4-5 years, you have maybe the best top line in the game outside of Pittsburgh and possibly Chicago at that point. I think those three would be that good together. That would leave you with a second line of David Backes, Alexander Steen, and TJ Oshie. How's that for a second scoring line instead of the top line it's had to be for the last 3 years? Vladdy Sobotka would then get to fall to line 3, where he should be, along with Steve Ott and either Patrik Berglund or Magnus Pajaarvi or Chris Porter - or even a youngster like Dimitrij Jaskin or Ty Rattie. The Blues would then roll a fourth line with 3 of those other players not on the third line. If you split up Jaskin and Rattie among the last two lines, you have a potential scoring punch there as well.
I could very well be smitten with a team built that way - especially if all of these players will "fit Hitch's system." To me, Stastny looks like a guy who will fit the system. He plays in front of the opponent's net at times, works the corners in the offensive end at times, but occasionally I saw highlights of him pulling a cherry-picking Blackhawks type play - which Hitch won't allow. Stastny also was one of Colorado's 4 forwards that played over a minute of short-handed time per game. The last thing I love about him is that he is a great face off man. He was in the top 30 in faceoff wins this year and out of the 28 men ahead of him in wins, he beat 18 of them in win percentage, which matters more. I think he's the right fit at the right time for a team that really BADLY needs someone who knows how to find the back of the net with great consistency. I would go 5 years and $30-35 M ($6-7 M per season) for Stastny, who won't turn 29 until mid-season in 2014-2015. That's how I spend my money this offseason. I'm done with the second-rate Derek Roys (whom the Blues signed last offseason) and Troy Brouwers/Andrew Coglianos/Cory Conachers/Jiri Tlustys (who I asked for that offseason) and P.A. Parenteaus/David Joneses (who I asked for the previous offseason). I'm ready for the best free agent scorer out there who likely fits the system we play and I'm ready for it now. The way that Doug Armstrong has been acting as GM since Stillman has taken over as the owner shows me that he is ready for it as well.

If, for some reason, $7 M a season does not entice Peter Stastny to play in his home town (which is not a discount - I don't think he'd take one), there are lesser players to go after. I'm not really sure which I like the best. I think Thomas Vanek is too soft to play for Hitchcock, but he has some tremendous offensive talent. I think the same of Jussi Jokinen. Matt Moulson would be interesting - could be a good play. Mason Raymond might be the next guy I go after if Stastny doesn't sign. I don't think I give any of these guys over $5 M, though. If not Stastny, the best bet could end up being a wait and see approach for trades next year - not that the Stillman/Armstrong combo has been great in that department.
The last thing I want to bring up was not originally my idea. I am completely stealing this others here at I bought in: there needs to be variation on defense. Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Jay Bouwmeester (while all great players) are the same defenseman. They all are lean, quick skate, quick puck moving, largely offensive defensemen who offer little to zero upside in physical play. Maybe you look to trade one of them for a very similar player in terms of talent level and salary and age - but someone maybe not quite as gifted offensively who offers more gifts in his own end, while still chipping in more offensively than Barret Jackman (no offense big guy!)
Put it this way. Petro played 25:21 per game, Bouwm played 24:02, Shatty played 20:34, Jax played 17:55, Polak 17:20, and Leopole/Cola/Cole played ~15 a game when in. Polak led the defensemen with 151 hits. Jax was 2nd with 96. Shatty third with 72. Bouwm had 51. Petro - 24. In 81 games, Petro had 24 instances in which he was given a "hit" by the NHL stats people. Whether those are accurate or not - that is a crying shame. Those three can definitely help you put the puck in a net (Shatty 45 points, Bouwmeester 37 points, Petro 51 points) but in a VERY PHYSICAL playoff series, the three combined for 13 hits on 638 shifts on the ice.
Similar players to Shattenkirk/Pietrangelo/Bouwmeester that I would attempt to get are:
Slava Voynov of the Kings - regular season 22:17 per game, 165 hits, 4 goals, 30 assists, 34 points
Victor Hedman of the Lightning - regular season 22:26 per game, 86 hits, 13 goals, 42 assists, 55 points
Drew Doughty of the Kings - regular season 25:42 per game, 180 hits, 10 goals, 27 assists, 37 points
Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Coyotes - regular season 25:53 per game, 134 hits, 15 goals, 29 assists, 44 points
(Note: All stats are 2013-2014 only)
Out of those 4, Drew Doughty is clearly the best of the bunch. I don't think the Kings give him up unless they get a haul in return outside of one of our big 3. The other 3 players are all quite comparable to our big 3. Victor Hedman might be untouchable now - the Blues could have probably gotten him last year. However, after his huge year and being a year younger than Shatty/Petro, I don't know if the deal gets made.

In order, I think I offer up Bouwmeester for any of them first, then Pietrangelo, then Shattenkirk. Shatty might not have the upside of Petro but I think he's the most consistent of the three - while Bouwmeester is the oldest.

Anyway - that's my plan.

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