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.
(Check out STLGT documentary special, "The Butler can do it; the case for Chris Butler" if you are into that whole 'fair discussion' thing)
Chris Butler. Ahhh…Chris Butler.
Hometown kid. One of the most successful NHL players who were born and raised in the STL. By all accounts, an overall nice guy.
And if those things mattered, we should totally keep him around.
But in the business of winning, Butler is not a hot commodity.
He is a middling defense man who has proven that he cannot consistently handle competition above the 3rd pairing level and will never recreate his lower level successes in the NHL. He isn’t a bad option for a team without alternatives, but he isn’t the best option for the St. Louis Blues right now.
Our top 3 are set; they will be Kevin Shattenkirk, Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo. If one of those guys is traded, it is reasonable to believe that whoever they are traded for will probably also take a top 3 spot.
So look at the bottom 3 and see if we can find room for Butler in there.
First, I would argue that the 4 spot isn’t really an option because I think Butler is a liability on the 2nd pairing. Either way, vying for those bottom 3 spots we have Zbynek Michalek, Robert Bortuzzo, Carl Gunnarsson, Barret Jackman, Butler and Petteri Lindbohm.
Gunnarsson will occupy one of those unless traded, and if he is traded it will either be for another defense man of similar capabilities or because we signed Jackman and Michalek and it made Gunny expendable.
Michalek is a much better defense man with a bigger long-term upside. If we can afford to keep him, we should.
Bortuzzo was very impressive for us this year and brings a more physical element to the game than Butler, and also has a higher potential ceiling that 3rd pairing Butler.
If we can’t retain Michalek, Lindbohm is an up-and-coming defender who has made a strong case for an NHL slot and who also has a higher potential ceiling than Butler.
And we also have Jackman, who is comparably capped at 3rd line minutes and match-ups at this point in his career and who could probably be retained for mot much more than Butler once you factor in a hometown/old guy discount.
If Butler is back next year, that in and of itself realistically won’t mean much to the overall picture. But it will likely mean that we didn’t get Michalek signed and/or we didn’t get Jackman resigned and/or Lindbohm is wasn’t awarded or didn’t earn an NHL spot and all of those things are negatives.
Also, think about this fact: The St. Louis Blues have never won a Stanley Cup with a native St. Louisan on the roster. Think about that. (Sorry, that’s about all I can muster. My ‘anti-Butler’ juices just aren’t flowing.)
So, unlike previous posts, I am not going to say that we should definitely not have Butler around next year, but any scenario that makes him the ‘best option’ is an unfortunate scenario.
So we should be hoping that he isn’t around next year.