Editor's Note: The Blues have quite a few UFAs whose futures need close examination. This is an ongoing pro/con debate on the fates of each of them.
After such rousing discussions the last few days on why Barret Jackman should stay, why not dive in to the thought provoking decision of keeping Chris Porter around? Now I know what you are thinking, this guy is still hanging around the locker room? Why yes he is and after you get past the lack of scoring at the NHL level you will see why it is important that the Blues retain his services not just for the regular season but the post season as well.
Let's preface this of first with what the Blues have at the forward position leading into next season. The Blues currently have 10 forwards locked into contracts who have played at the NHL level significantly and they also have some Russian super star to be to sign as well. That leaves essentially one spot open to fill barring any trades which may very likely happen. Even if a trade does happen, retaining Chris Porter seems like a no-brainer to fill that fourth line spot.
The Blues have a multitude of young forwards who are ready to rise up the ranks and lend there skills to the parent club but a majority of those players are skill forwards who would not serve useful time playing on the fourth line. Many will clamor for Ty Rattie or Robby Fabbri to get their licks in next season but unless you trade some players to open up spots on the top lines they will not get much out of their time here. By re-signing a player like Porter you not only give these young players a chance to develop in the minors but you also continue to have a known commodity in a position he knows well and how to play it.
When you look at the available free agents that would fall into Porter's salary range you see names like Eric Fehr and Gregory Campbell who may be good replacements but why work someone new into a system that Porter already knows. Even a guy like Joakim Lindstrom was deemed expendable this year because there was a guy like Porter who could play that spot.
With little to spend and a few young players getting raises the Blues will need to be smart with their money. Porter made $700,000 this past year, the second year of a $1.3 million contract which was a raise from his previous contract. Even if he were to get another raise its likely that his yearly salary would still fall under $1 million a year which would allow for a defensemen to be signed along with Tarasenko and Allen. Most of the free agents that are available who could fill his role made north of $1.25 million last season. Porter will also just be 31 when this season starts so he has age on his side as well which may allow the team to pay him a little more long term but keep his cap number low to allow for better signings at other positions.
173 games played, 11 goals and 16 assists with a -7 rating.
These numbers don't look amazing but when you consider this is a player who has traversed the roads between the NHL and AHL many times in the last 7 years its amazing he can be consistent in his play enough to get points when he is in the lineup. When you look at his minor league stats he isn't shown as a prolific scorer but he does score a shade under a point a game.
The real surprising thing about it is he seems to lock it down in the playoffs. In 15 playoff games for the Blues he has scored two goals and three assists but he owns a plus 3 rating. While that's eye popping, when you take a look at the top forwards for the Blues it becomes eye popping. The top four guys on the team; Backes, Oshie, Steen and Berglund have a combined -29 rating in the playoffs. While they have played double the games as Porter its a pretty telling stat because those players have also combined for a measly 49 points in 119 games while Porter has 5 points in 15 games.
Another interesting tidbit is the Blues record when Porter plays, this season the Blues were 16-7-1 with him in the lineup. While it is a small sample size, it is crazy how a single fourth line player can make a difference in how a team looks and feels. When he is paired with Ryan Raves and a player like Marcel Goc, an intensity forms on the line unlike when Steve Ott plays on that same line. Porter infuses speed, skill and physicality to coincide with Reaves' brutality and Goc's sound defensive minded game.
With potentially one slot open to fill this off season the Blues need to stick with a known commodity and one who brings out the best in his fellow teammates. At a decent salary and regular playing time, Chris Porter could be that missing piece to the puzzle that is the Blues post season question mark. Besides, who are you going to replace him with???