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.
Now that we have, for the most part, gotten over the hangovers from another disappointing playoff exit it's time to start looking at what next year's team could and should look like. Aside from the obvious signings off Vladi Tarasenko and Jake Allen, the Blues have several unrestricted free agents they will need to look at to fill out the roster. One such player happens to be the current longest tenured Blue and a guy who has at times been celebrated and bashed by the same fan base in the same year. So why do I believe Barret Jackman should be re-signed? Multiple reasons: how often does a player stay with his original team in current times, his statistics rank him as one of the most steady defensemen on the team, his salary may make him the perfect fit and who else could replace him next season.
Tenure: This past season Jackman passed Brian Sutter for second on the All-Time Games Played list in St. Louis Blues history. He sits at 803 games played in his career and trails Bernie Federko by 124 games for first place and if not for a lock-out and a short season he may have already passed the Blues great. Even though he is 34 years old he still is averaging over 70 games per season and if he did that over the next two years he would easily pass Federko.
We all saw this year that not one player is immune to ending his career with another team when the Blues signed Martin Broduer. How amazing would it be for a player like Jackman to finish his career with the team that drafted him? In the NHL alone there are not many who have stayed with one team, 27 out of 290 players with over 1000 games played have played them all with one team. Even Federko didn't play every year of his career in St. Louis, finishing in Detroit.
If Barret were to finish his career with St. Louis he would join guys like Niklas Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Bob Gainey and Jean Beliveau as franchise players to stay at home their whole career. He may not have the flashiest career of those guys but it speaks to character of the man if he is able to make it happen.
Statistics: Now we get into the meat of this story and can leave the sentimental part behind. The goals and the assists are not the numbers that are going to keep Jackman around, though 28 goals and 153 for a defensive defensemen aren't bad. No its the +53 rating he carries that will be the basis of why he should stay. +53 you say isn't that impressive? Consider this, coming into the 2009-10 season he was a +7 for his career in which he played for some highly explosive scoring teams. Since that time he has been +46 on a more defensive minded team, although he has not gone up against the top tier talent he used to as well.
For all the "mistakes" he seems to make in the eyes of fans, Jackman has been a very steady and consistent player in his career and especially of late. He realizes his position on the team and picks his spots to be aggressive as well. Aside from last season in which he racked up 97 minutes in penalties, his average time in the box has almost halved itself in the last five seasons.
Replacements: Why can't we just replace him with someone cheaper? Well first off he isn't that expensive in terms of defensemen. Jackman made $3.25 million last year which is high for a 3rd line pairing but this contract was signed when we had unknown quantities in Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Ian Cole. A pay cut is inevitable and unless some team is desperate for a veteran at over 3 million a year it seems likely he will come cheap. With Tarasenko and Allen commanding much of the projected $13.4 million in cap space, Jackman will have to come in at around $2 million, which is very likely.
Comparable players to him last year included Christian Ehrhoff (32) who made $4 million, Paul Martin (34) who made $5 million and Francios Beauchemin (35) who made $3.5 million. Younger, established players who could take his spot are likely to command in the 3.5 to 4 million dollar range. Now you take a look at the minor leagues and see who may be able to step up. Petteri Lindbohm had a nice rookie season but he is the only one under contract who has NHL experience.
Thomas Vannelli played this past season in Medicine Hat in the WHL, and while he produced 41 points in 60 games he never got a chance to play in the AHL and won't be near ready for NHL play next season. Joel Edmundson is a possible candidate but he has one season in the AHL with the Wolves and though he played in 64 games he only managed 8 points and racked up a ton of penalty minutes which shows some discipline is still needed.
Conclusion: In the end the Blues must step up and retain Jackman, and not just for the sentimental aspects. Jackman can come at a reasonable price and he doesn't even need to play every game to break the Blues games played record over the next two years. In that time frame he can play mentor to guys like Lindbohm, Vannelli and Edmundson and still contribute in games as well. He still won't put up many points and win you games but as evidence by his steady play over the last few years he isn't going to lose you games either.
JACKMAN IN 2016!!