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.Zbynek Michalek is one of the most solid Blues defenders and needs to be resigned and slotted in the top 4.
Say it out loud.
Just saying it makes you feel a sense of power and is likely to strike fear into the hearts of opposing forwards.
That may be a slight exaggeration.
Zbynek Michalek was acquired as a rental at the 2015 trading deadline. The Blues decided they needed a little more size on the Blue line, so they picked up the 6’2" 210 pound shut-down defenseman.
I remember not that long ago, the Blues traded away a big strong shutdown defenseman for some guy who was supposed to add offense to the Blue line. Roman Polak was one of the defensive stalwarts who allowed our more offensive minded d-men to work up the ice a bit. Trading him for Carl Gunnarsson created a bit of an imbalance and the moves to get Robert Bortuzzo and Michalek seemed like an effort to correct that imbalance.
Well, it is time to finish that correction.
Barring a significant trade, right now we have Kevin Shattenkirk, Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo fixed into the top 3 spots. The bottom 2 spots will come down to Bortuzzo, Barrett Jackman, Chris Butler and Petteri Lindbohm. Let’s talk about that final spot in the top 4.
Do we need more offense or defense in our top 4?
First let’s look at points per game:
Shattenkirk leads the pack at .58, Pietrangelo is second at .56, Bouwmeester is 3rd at .39. Gunnarsson is a distant 4th at .26. Michalek, the shutdown guy, trails the ‘puck mover’ by only .02 at .24. Looks like we have the offensive aspect handled with the top 3, and Gunny isn’t noteably better than Z on the offensive side anyway.
Now let’s look at the defensive side of things with Corsi%:
Looking at a 3 season sample of the last 3 years, Shattenkirk leads that pack here as well with 54.2%. Second only to him; the big Z with 51.8%. Following them are JBo at 50.5%, Petro at 50.2% and Gunny bringing up the rear at 49.8%. Corsi Relative rankings are in the same order with only Shatty and Z in the positives.
So, our top 4 has the offense covered, and Gunny isn’t much of an upgrade over Z.
The bigger need in the top 4 is of a defensive nature. Michalek has been one of the top shut-down guys the last few years and would be a solid long-term addition to a Blues blueline that hasn’t been the same defensively since Polak left.
The big question is, how much will it cost to keep Michalek around?
Well, his last deal had him making $4mil a year. At 32 years old, and with his history of injuries, it isn’t unreasonable to think that he would be due for a pay-cut. Premier shutdown D-men (who don’t also add significant offense) go for $4-$4.5 mil and while Z is good, he isn’t ‘premier.’ Most of the shutdown guys in his skill range are in the $3-$3.5 range, which should be a reasonable average salary on a 3ish year deal.
Gunnarsson is making $3.5 mil this year, and Z is an upgrade over him, so if we can land him for around that amount them we should.
And since $3.5 mil is too damn much to pay a 3rd pairing guy, we should dump Gunny either in a multi-player that addresses our needs at forward or in a salary dump/prospect/pick deal to make room for Michalek.
If there is going to be a parade down Market Street before technology advances beyond the need for actual streets, the Blues D is going to have to be tougher, better and stronger than it was last year. Keeping Michalek on our blue line is a good step in the right direction.
Michalek for D in 15-16!