A few years ago, Game Time began the Mail Bag to let readers vent their frustrations about the team once they were eliminated from the playoffs. It’s been quiet this year, but the frustrations are still there, and Kyle Foxton’s proving that!
If you guys have a rant you’d like proofed and posted, send it over to me at hildymacgt at gmail dot com.
Without further ado, here’s Kyle’s contribution:
As the great Frank Costanza once said during a Festivus dinner, "I GOT A LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH YOU PEOPLE AND NOW YOU'RE GOING TO HEAR ABOUT IT."
Well... they did it again. Another year, another Cup-less season, another year of watching teams inch closer to their first Stanley Cup, and another year of minimal expectations for an off-season... HAPPY 50TH ANNIVERSARY, BLUES FANS. I think I've had it... and I'll make a statement right now. I'm going on the record to say, that I will never be watching this team again... until you know... like October or whatever, obviously. I'm not a writer, I don't voice my displeasure in well written articles hours after they happen, like some of the best in the business on this site. Quite frankly, writing in 140 characters is my only outlet to talking about the Blues for 364 days a year. This is the one day I actually take time, look back in my iPhone notes at things I've written down all season that grind my gears, and unleash them in my year end rant. I apologize for the length, but these sons a bitches give me a lot to complain about, so buckle up folks.
I want to take a little survey here to start this rant, if you don't mind. If you expected the Blues and this roster to be Stanley Cup champions come June, I want you to raise your right hand straight into the air right now. Go on, raise your hand, I'll wait. Okay, now I want you to lower your hand slightly so your elbow is at a 90 degree angle, turn your hand towards your face, and as hard as you can, slap yourself in the face until you realize how stupid you were for thinking that. What about this roster, a year removed from the most unrealistic, overachieving conference final run in NHL history, that lost 4 players in the off-season, gave you hope for this year?
David Backes, gone. Troy Brouwer, gone. Steve Ott, Gone. Brian Elliott, Gone. BUT DON'T WORRY EVERYONE, DAVID FUCKING PERRON IS BACK. Just in case you were worried about not taking enough offensive zone penalties, we solved that problem. You know that classic Simpson's episode where Apu and his wife just have 8 babies? Marge brings them banana bread as a gift. The most pointless and unneeded gift in the history of gifts that would do nothing to help. "Oh, wonderful, our problems are over, we have banana bread." That's David Perron. I got that alert on my phone, saw the term and dollar amount and just stared at the floor like "wow a pointless, waste of money for a third liner? Yeah, that sounds about right."
About a week before that, we lost the face of the franchise. The greatest player in team history. A player that no doubt will have his jersey retired by the Blues after his illustrious hall of fame career has completed. And someone who was definitely not passed over by THREE, COUNT UM' THREE separate goalies for the starting position in his tenure, Brian Elliott. Now look, I never minded Elliott as a goalie, he was a serviceable 1B, 2A goalie and rejuvenated his career after coming here. That doesn't change the fact that he was in his 30's, a UFA in a year, and it was basically the worst kept secret in hockey that the Blues were going all-in in the Jake Allen camp, who was a younger, team drafted, longer term and get this everyone... BETTER option than Elliott. The trade to Calgary left some fans stunned and outraged that in a buyer's market, with roughly only 4 teams looking for a starting goalie, the Blues weren't able to get more out of their saviour goaltender. I guess at the draft the Auston Matthews for Elliott trade fell through, so the Blues had to go to the backup option of trading him to Calgary for an early second round pick.
Let's travel back in time a little bit here shall we? The year was 2010 and the month was May. It was a simpler time in this little place we call earth. 'The Hurt Locker' had just won best picture, Tiger Woods was happily cheating on his wife without being caught, the St. Louis Rams (an NFL team at the time) had just drafted the blue-chip Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford first overall, and the state of Illinois was 2 weeks away from finding out what hockey was. It was a great time. In the NHL world, the 8th seeded Montreal Canadiens were just eliminated from the playoffs in the 3rd round behind the goaltending of Jaroslav Halak. Montreal fans had seen enough. Halak was the future for the Habs in between the pipes, they were to trade that other guy and ride Halak to Stanley Cups for the next decade. The other goalie? Some lady named Price. Carey Price. CAREY PRICE... AHHHH. (read that in your best Sandlot impression, trust me its funnier).
What does that have to do with the Blues you ask? Well, Montreal decided to trade the goalie who's value would never be higher, keep the younger goalie that they drafted highly, and hope nobody realized the goalie they traded in that Cinderella postseason, went 9-9 with a 2.55 GAA. St. Louis did the EXACT. SAME. THING. I'm not saying Jake Allen is Carey Price or anything, but from a business standpoint, it made the most sense. Brian Elliott, with 1 year left in his deal, and who wouldn't be protected for the expansion draft the following off-season, was traded to one of the 4-5 teams looking for a goalie, in exchange for what turned out to be 'The Hockey News' 97th ranked prospect. Elliott's postseason numbers ? 9-9 with a 2.45 GAA. Why do those numbers look familiar eh? Brian Elliott had a great run, a well deserved run for a true professional, and was shipped to a team where he could compete for a starting position. The Blues got a high end prospect, and clarity for their number one goalie that it was his net. It was a win-win from a business stand point and a win-win for both Allen and Elliott. That concludes my rant on the Blues goaltending issues. Just kidding, more up coming, stay tuned.
Oh, but the Blues weren't done with pointless off-season moves, oh no no no. Let's ask another question shall we? If you had to pick the worst first overall pick of the last 15-16 years, who would it be? If you say Erik Johnson, that's comical and I appreciate the comedy, but not correct with what it brought the team (that will remain nameless) in return. The answer is no question Nail Yakupov, who has shown next to no reason to think that he had any potential left, but Doug Armstrong thought it was worth rolling the dice and seeing if a change of scenery would help. Not mentioning the fact that he would be playing for a defensive minded coach, that favoured veterans, was notorious for giving young players low ice time, and had just caught fire a few months prior for playing his best player, a fellow Russian mind you, an absurdly low amount of ice time. Oh yeah, this move had a ton of potential. On a team that already featured no less than 5 third liners, Doug Armstrong decided that trading a 3rd round pick and a fringe prospect was worth those 9 points in 40 games and 2.5 million worth of Tom Stillman's money. On paper, acquiring a former first overall pick for a mid pick is a no brainer, but when you dig deeper it was a risk that wasn't necessary, didn't have much hope of paying off, and ultimately didn't pay off.
Speaking of that coach, he himself was brought back for a 1 year deal (the most pointless deal to ever give a coach mind you) and his replacement was hired to STAND BESIDE HIM ALL SEASON. Tell me how that makes sense? What was that phone call with Mike Yeo like? "Listen Mike, we really want you to be the coach of the Blues going forward but uhm... do you mind standing next to Hitch for a year?" THAT’S NOT HOW BUSINESS WORKS. Imagine at the job you work at, your boss hire's the guy to replace you, who will stand beside you all year. Literally any bad decision you make, that guy has free range to say under his breath or to anyone that would listen "Pshh, that's not what I would've done." You want Ken Hitchcock to be your coach for a year? Fine. That's your decision. That's your stupid, incorrect decision to make. You want to hire Mike Yeo, because you think he's the best fit for the Blues going forward? Fine. That's your decision, and only time will tell. YOU DON'T KEEP BOTH OF THEM, WHEN ONE WAS GUARANTEED THE SPOT IN A YEAR. Ken Hitchcock should not have been brought back. Quite frankly, they made the 3rd round last year despite him. How many blown leads did the team have? How many times was Tarasenko's ice time a factor? How many flat starts to periods did the Blues have? How many too many men penalties? How many times on social media did you see the phrase "Don't sit back." Well you know who's call it was to have them sit back? Coach Kenny. The regular season numbers speak for themselves, and he was a fantastic regular season coach. But for a team whose Stanley Cup window was open for 4 of his 5 seasons here, what did we get? 3 first round exits, a sweep in a 2nd round, and a miraculous 3rd round appearance. The guy has gone 21-35 in the playoffs since the lockout. That's a winning percentage for you math people out there, of 37.5%. That's not great. OHHHH BUT HE WON A STANLEY CUP DONTCHA KNOW?! Yeah. In 19-fucking-99. Completely unrelated, I just got a text from Jim Craig and Mike Eruzione, they said it's time for him to stop living in the past on one win. I realize that joke might not have landed so well with all Americans reading this, but I stand by that joke in its context.
Then the season started, oh goody. A few wins here and there, a few losses, it was hockey. It was essentially watching a team whose GM said OUT LOUD that this year would be a regression season and they HOPE to make the playoffs. First off, there's no way possible where losing 4 players should make that drastic of a change if the GM had looked ahead and avoided this problem. There's nothing wrong with going all in for one season and hope to win the cup, but at some point do you think anyone said "Uhhh... Doug? That's another big extension given out, do you think maybe we should look ahead a year or two at some guys that we might need to keep?" If they did say that, Doug Armstrong didn't hear because he was too busy making it rain on Jori Lehtera and checking his voicemail for Vladimir Sobotka calls (OH WE WILL GET TO THAT MY FRIENDS).
Pretty much the only high point for Blues fans in the season was taking part in the annual Chicago Blackhawks Outdoor Classic. Of course it happened to fall right in the middle of Jake Allen's slump (OH WE WILL GET TO THAT), and expectations weren't that high. It was the first non-playoff game in years that I was actually nervous and praying for a win. It was a perfect storm when it was all said and done. The Blues alumni won, the Blues won led by their franchise player, Busch stadium looked perfect for the event, and Bob Costas embarrassed himself by trying to incorporate Nelly lyrics into his monotone hockey script. So good for St. Louis for hosting that, beating the Hawks, and getting a little respect in terms of a national audience. You like hearing nice things about the Blues? That's as nice as it gets, back to the ranting, here we go.
So Mike Yeo takes over soon after that, they trade his powerplay quarterback (OH WE WILL GET TO THAT), he's without a top 6 forward in Fabbri due to injury, and he's taking over for a team clinging to a playoff spot. So naturally, all he does is go 28-13-2 in that span (including playoffs). Now I don't know about anyone else, but isn't it nice seeing a coach do something else besides standing with his arms folded on the bench, murmuring under his breath? Call me crazy, but I don't think Ken Hitchcock was exactly giving any Herb Brooks type speech during intermissions. I'm not saying Mike Yeo is, but dear God... in his first game he was shown crouched down between Tarasenko and Schwartz after a shift with a white board, diagramming a change to their strategy. He talked to referees, and was visibly shown getting angry with them. Now if that did anything throughout the game, who knows, but it's refreshing to see a coach get animated during the game and expressing the same frustrations on calls, or missed calls, that we the fans are seeing at the same time.
Now I want to tell you a little story here. A 5 year old boy was talking to his father, and asking questions like any curious boy at that age would. "Dad, what do you call those guys in the red trucks, that use the big hoses to go into houses?" the boy asks his father, "Well son, we call them firefighters, because they keep us safe from fire and danger." The boy then asks "What do you call those people that take the bad people away to jail?" The father replies, "Well son, we call them police men and police women, they are very brave and are here to help you." The boy then has one question remaining, he looks at his father and says, "Dad, what do we call people that want to trade Alex Pietrangelo, or make him not the captain anymore?" The father sighs, looks at his young son and says, "Well son, we call them fucking idiots because they think top 10 defenseman in the world grow on trees and don't understand what a fucking leader should be."
Now when David Backes left, the questions arose about who the new captain of the Blues should be. The list was essentially three names, but when you think about it, the right guy won the honour. The first nominee was Alex Steen, the oldest of the three options. The guy played on a broken foot in the playoffs, played all situations and was a true leader on the ice. The only knock on him would be his bad penalties from time to time, his age, and that he can be knocked off his game when frustrated.
Option two, Vladimir Tarasenko. He's your best player, your top scorer, the most important player in the organization, and the franchise. He leads by example, and if someone takes a run at him, it'll be answered for. He's the highest paid player, well liked by everyone in the room, and is there for 8 more years minimum. Although he captained the 2011 Russian Juniors to Gold, he didn't need the "C" to be known as the top player on this team, but was the top option amongst the forwards.
Even with all that said, option three, Alex Pietrangelo, was the CLEAR choice in this. He was drafted 4th overall by the team, which kind of indicates big plans, has never played less than 73 games in a season (he played 20 playoff games that year by the way), he plays easily 28+ minutes a night, he's your best defenseman and has the best winning resume of the 3 nominees (World Junior gold and silver, Olympic gold, World Cup) so he kinda knows what it takes to win. What's the knock on him? He doesn't put up Kevin Shattenkirk type offense (probably because he's too busy playing defense), and he doesn't hit or fight like David Backes does. So clearly he can't lead a team, right? That makes a ton of sense. He's active in the community, he shaved his head to support his niece going through cancer, and he is finally getting some respect throughout the NHL. He's a guy who deserves respect from teammates and officials, he's earned that through his play, and is literally the only star defenseman this team has had since the Pronger days. Still doubting him as the captain? How about this, he got praise from NBC about his work in the playoffs. NBC GAVE A BLUES PLAYER PRAISE.
So when it came down to it, did you want your captain to be a forward or defenseman? The Blues went defense, Tarasenko and Steen got A's, and Pietrangelo let his performance do the talking for him on an above-average (at best) defense core in the season and post season. Well deserved 27.
Moving to the trade deadline now, it was a unique week or two for us Blues fans. The Blues were in a playoff spot, but it was certain that they would trade Kevin Shattenkirk before the deadline. Now there were reports of 6 or 7 teams kicking tires on the "defenseman" and I use that term loosely. Finally, the Blues held some cards here over Shattenkirk, as he had put a veto on sign and trade deals to Edmonton and Tampa, that would've brought Taylor Hall or Jonathan Drouin to the Blues in return. But finally, they could trade the hot commodity, gain some picks and prospects and maximize the value for a guy who had no say in what team he would be on for the next 3 months. Now keep in mind the deadline was on WEDNESDAY March 1st, and the Blues traded Shattenkirk to Washington on MONDAY February 27th, roughly 40+ hours before the deadline. Now here's where the problem comes from my standpoint. I'm not in the room, I'm not tapped into the phones, I have no idea how making an NHL trade comes to fruition. However, what I do know is simple business. If Zach Sanford and a 1st round pick was what the Blues wanted, then fine, I have no issue with that. What I do have an issue with is the timing. If that's the offer on the table, I would go to Pittsburgh, I would go to New York, I would go to Toronto, I would go to Boston and say "Listen, I have an offer on the table here, and unless you want to put a bid together and outbid them, Kevin Shattenkirk is going to be a Washington Capital in two days." Now, maybe they throw an offer out, and maybe they don't, but its common sense to try and create a mini bidding war before the deadline and maximize the value for the top rental player on the market. Pittsburgh could've came back with an offer and maybe Washington decides to throw in another prospect or pick.
Zach Sanford was a fine addition with decent potential to be a middle 6 forward, the 1st round pick will be 27th overall, and serviceable players have certainly been found there before, but it felt and sounded like this trade was done quickly. Why with 40+ hours remaining, do you jump on this deal? Are you scared that Washington will move on to another target? Then fine, let them move on, and you have other teams that will offer a prospect and 1st round pick. I find it hard to believe that Zach Sanford was the blue-chip, sure fire first liner that the Blues were targeting, that caused them to forgo taking more offers and creating a bidding war. Again, had that been the final trade an hour or two before the deadline, I would have no problem with that, it was just the timing a day and a half before the deadline, that was ridiculous from Doug Armstrong.
Speaking of Doug Armstrong, the man responsible for having a team of no 2nd liners and six 3rd liners in his playoff lineup. Every time he takes one step forward, he takes three back. Somebody (Tom Stillman, Marty Brodeur, etc.) has to step in and hide his cheque book so he can stop giving multi-year extensions. I'm roughly 96% sure that Doug Armstrong sees a player go on a little hot streak, and dishes out contracts based on that small sample size, that players can never dream of living up too. Jori Lehtera, Patrik Berglund, Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Steen, Carl Gunnarsson, and Vladimir Tarasenko were the extensions given out over the last two years before this season. You can argue that of those extensions, only one has lived up to the dollar amount they received. Now this season, we were given extensions to Patrik Berglund (AGAIN), Jake Allen and the returning Vladimir Sobotka.
The Sobotka soap opera, speaking of which, I had completely lost interest in months before it concluded. When it was announced he was coming back, with a brand new extension before playing a shift with the Blues, I just shook my head. You want to lock him up, fine, but a $3.5 million cap hit for a guy who maxes out as a low end second liner on his best day is ridiculous. Patrik Berglund was having his best season in 5 years (the bar wasn't set high), and all signs looked to him being a deadline move by the Blues and bringing in another 1st round pick or mid level prospect, similar to what Martin Hanzal fetched for Arizona. Instead, he received a five year extension for his troubles, worth $3.85 million per year. In a season where a 23 goal and 11 assist performance is considered a career turnaround, that cap hit is atrocious for a guy who disappeared in the playoffs (AGAIN), and is on any other team a 3rd liner. Jake Allen, was brutal for a two month stretch and the ink wasn't even dry on his four year extension for $4.35 million per year before that started. Luckily, the Jake Allen deal, after his end of the season stretch looks reasonable, but if you take the combined salary of the 3rd line of Berglund, Sobotka and Lehtera, that's over $12 million against the cap. I don't know about any one else out there, but I wouldn't mind getting a pair of $5 million per year top 6 players and a $2 million legitimate third liner for that cap space.
Next topic. Jake Allen as the number 1 goalie. Okay, let's call a spade a spade here. He struggled hard for a 2 month stretch this season. No, you know what, struggled would've been an improvement - he was brutal, and there's no way around that. At one point this year, of all the eligible goaltenders in the NHL, he ranked second to last with a save percentage of 0.892%. Now, I said second to last. I want you to ask me who was dead last. GO ON ASK ME... NO WAIT, one more deep breath. Okay, ask me. BRIAN FUCKING ELLIOTT WAS DEAD LAST AT THAT TIME. I couldn't have scripted that if I tried. So Jake Allen gets left home on a roap trip, Arizona Copley (yes, i know its Phoenix but get the joke people) gets a start in Winnipeg, and a week later the Blues had a new coach, that wasn't new but technically was, BECAUSE REASONS WE WENT OVER THAT STILL DON’T MAKE SENSE. Then all of a sudden, someone says "Hey... we have that assistant GM that use to be kinda okay in net.. why don't we ask him to work with Jake?" Wouldn't you know it, that kinda worked. In his first full week with Brodeur, he was the NHL's second star of the week. When the Blues beat the Wild in 5 games in the playoffs, I, along with the media and I'm guessing deep down, yourselves said they would have been swept if it weren't for Jake Allen. You know who's team did get swept in the playoffs...?
The last gear grinding I have about Brian Elliott has nothing to do with him. For the first time, I actually closed Twitter and shook my head at the stupidity of some people. Let me paint the scene for you if I may. Saturday night, March 25th. The Calgary Flames were visiting the Blues for the SECOND time this season, and both teams at the time were fighting for the last 3 playoff spots. 9 games were left in the season, and that's a lot of points on the table during a playoff race. So Brian Elliott and Troy Brouwer got their welcome back video packages during the FIRST game 5 months earlier and round of applause during a stoppage and well deserved, no questions about that. Here's where the problem comes. During the game, fans in the crowd rightfully so, chanted ELLLLLLIOTTTTT. You know, the standard goalie call that the PROFESSIONAL HOCKEY PLAYING MULTI MILLIONAIRE has heard a number of times. On Twitter, some Blues fans were ruthlessly against this, calling their fellow fans unclassy and rude. So to sum up here if you're keeping track at home, the same fans that had given him a standing round of applause 5 months prior, were being criticized for trying to get into the head of the OPPOSING goaltender, that was trying to KEEP THEIR FAVOURITE TEAM out of the playoffs. Now, let me clarify a couple of things. Brian Elliott was a starting goalie in the NHL, the Blues got a top prospect for him, and Jake Allen was firmly over his yips and was playing like an all-star goalie. Do you think if Calgary would've won the Cup this year, Brian Elliott would've taken his one day with the Cup, and brought it to St. Louis? FUCK NO HE WOULDN'T. But we were criticized for jeering an opposing goalie while TRYING TO GET INTO THE PLAYOFFS, at the risk of what? Hurting his feelings? Well luckily for those fans, Brian Elliott and the Flames won in overtime. The Blues could've ended up facing Chicago, Anaheim or missed the playoffs all together as a result of this game, BUT THANK GOD BRIAN ELLIOTT'S FEELINGS WEREN'T HURT.
Now the fun part of this article, where I try and fix this mess of a roster. Looking ahead to the off-season and the logical moves I would like to see made from the Blues and the reasons behind them. In brackets is either the cap hit coming off the books, or being added to it. According to CapFriendly the Blues have $2.76 million in cap space (assuming the cap stays the same).
1. TRADE- Jori Lehtera (- $4.7 million) and 2018 3rd round pick to Las Vegas for a 2018 6th round pick.
Lehtera was a healthy scratch for 3 playoff games this year despite his price tag. His point total, despite playing with the team's two best offensive options, has been laughable (44, 34, 22) and despite what Doug Armstrong said during his end of the year speech, they have to cut ties with Tarasenko's buddy. What would Vladi rather like? A buddy on the team to take Instagram selfies, or that money being freed up to get him some help scoring goals. Vegas will be receiving a lot of offers from teams to eat their bad contracts, so the Blues will have to entice Vegas by offering them to move up 3 rounds in the draft. Plus it's only 2 seasons remaining of Lehtera and then he's off the books as a UFA. Vegas gets a 3rd line center on a team that won't compete to begin with, move 3 rounds higher in their 2nd draft in the league, and they get 4.7 million closer to the cap floor, without using an expansion draft pick.
2. TRADE- Nail Yakupov RFA (-2.5 million) to ANY TEAM for a 2017 5th round pick.
As discussed, the Yakupov experiment did not land. He will not be brought back and according to reports has no interest in the KHL, so he'll stay in the NHL for a little while longer. If the Blues can manage to find a buyer that wants to take a shot on him, hopefully an asking price of a mid round pick won't be too much. You lost a 3rd round pick this year, but if you can move back only a round or two, it won't look like such a failed experiment. If they can't find a trade partner, release the guy and free up the cap room.
3. TRADE- Joel Edmundson (- $1.05 million), Ivan Barbashev (-742k), Jordan Binnington, WAS 2017 1st Round Pick (27) to Tampa Bay for Jonathan Drouin (RFA), Slater Koekkoek (894k), 2018 4th round pick
First off, calm your balls (or lady balls) here and let me explain. Okay, this is the big move of the off-season that I will be hoping for and if you've been following me on twitter for the past two years, first off congratulations on the wonderful life choice, second of all, it's no secret that Jonathan Drouin has been my man crush to see in a Blues jersey for the next decade plus. Let's clarify something off the start for those people rolling their eyes, JD was drafted 3rd overall in 2013 behind only MacKinnon and Barkov. He demanded a trade from Tampa last year, because he was in the AHL and wanted to play in the NHL on a team that was insanely deep and didn't have an open spot. Blues twitter was priceless with the "He's not proven" tweets at that point, and the "who does this kid think he is?" Yeah, what a dick that kid is right? They put him in the lineup on the 3rd and 4th line for the playoffs that year and all he did was put up 14 points in 17 games. All he did this year was 53 in 73, while playing 3rd line minutes. The kid will be a superstar and he's a 1st line talent that the Blues almost got at the deadline last year, and that they shouldn't hesitate to get this off-season.
In this trade, while unlikely since the other 29 teams in the league won't hesitate to try and acquire a future superstar and may have more to offer, the Lightning are said to have been looking for a top 4 defenseman. However, with their cap problems, they might have to settle for a cap controlled FUTURE top 4 defenseman. Joel Edmundson had a coming out party of sorts this past postseason, and hopefully Tampa caught wind of that. Barbashev has shown flashes of top 6 potential and would give Tampa a cap friendly ELC to work with, as well as develop at their own pace. Jordan Binnington has developed well in the system, and with Tampa's lack of a goaltending pipeline, he would be a starter full time for their AHL team and the first call up if an injury happens to Vasilevsky or Gudlevskis. The late first round pick also gives Tampa some flexibility to make another trade, or use the pick for another non-top name prospect that they have shown they can strike gold with (Point, DeAngelo, Vasilevsky). The Blues get a legitimate 1st line player to play with Tarasenko or Schwartz (who Tampa can't afford to protect in the expansion draft due to other forwards being locked up), they get a former 10th overall pick that has had injury problems and won't crack Tampa's lineup this season, and they also get a mid round pick for next year's draft.
For the record, if Tampa asked for Fabbri instead of Barbashev or Schmaltz instead of Edmundson, I would do the deal the same exact way. Yeah, Drouin is THAT good. Doug Armstrong, say about him what you will, and lord knows I have already, has been kicking tires on Drouin for roughly 18 months. Tampa and St. Louis were scouting each other well past the trade deadline and if it's the last move he ever does with the Blues, Army can erase every bad contract, trade and signing in my eyes with this trade.
4. LAS VEGAS EXPANSION DRAFT - Dmitrij Jaskin (- $1.0 million)
This was the only one I went back and forth on a few times. The only other options (assuming my Drouin trade happens as is) are David Perron, Robert Bortuzzo, Kyle Brodziak, or Ryan Reaves. I had the Blues protecting 7F, 3D, 1G. Tarasenko, Schwartz, Stastny, Steen, Berglund (ugh), Sobotka, Drouin would be the forwards. Pietrangelo, Bouwmeester, Gunnarsson would be the defense, with Jake Allen being the goalie. For anyone saying, they should leave Bouwmeester unprotected, let me ask you here. Hate him or his contract all you want, JayBo has a gold medal, and world cup on his resume, and is pencilled in as your first pairing defenseman with your captain. Who would you rather protect? Petteri Lindbohm? Chris Butler? Matt Ellis? No, I'm sorry, you protect your first pairing defenseman and deal with his contract when he becomes a UFA in 2 seasons. I wanted to leave Berglund unprotected but with the thinness down the middle, and him being locked up for another 5 seasons, that was highly unlikely.
In Jaskin, Vegas is getting a young power forward type, that will finally get a look as a regular in the lineup. Should Vegas choose to select David Perron instead (LOL by the way) then Jaskin would have a spot in the Blues lineup next year. If ever the term "ending on a high note" was applicable, it would be here. Jaskin played in the team's final two playoff games this year and showed flashes of brilliance in game 5, and that might be enough for Vegas to roll the dice on him and get 4th line forwards or depth defenseman elsewhere.
5. RFA SIGNING- Jonathan Drouin- 6 year, $32.4 million- cap hit of $5.4 per year.
If the trade happens as is, and again, I'm praying everyday for Jonathan Drouin to be in a Bluenote next season, this would be the best deal for both sides here. If all the previous 4 moves happen as is, the Blues would have $11.8 in cap space (assuming the cap doesn't go up), with only Upshall, Paajarvi and Parayko left to extend this off-season that remain on the NHL roster. This move gives Drouin the 1st line type contract he deserves, while at the same time, takes him until he's 28-29 years of age and can still have one big UFA contract payday in his career. From the Blues standpoint, this contract would be a steal for the level of skill and potential he can bring to the team. If he's putting up a consistent 65+ points, which with actual linemates and ice time is a distinct possibility, in 3-4 years that cap hit could be considered a major steal. Think of like John Tavares' $5.5 million dollar cap hit the last few seasons with the Islanders. The Blues leading goal scorer had 39 goals this year and the next closest was 23, which is laughable when you think about it, and Jonathan Drouin can put up 25+ in his sleep with minimal effort provided he has the skilled linemates giving him the puck.
6. RFA SIGNING- Colton Parayko- 2 year, $7.2 million- cap hit of $3.6 per year.
This is one deal that could go one of two ways, either long term or bridge. Doug Armstrong loves his bridge deals, and usually makes them two years to retain the final year of RFA eligibility. Schwartz, Allen, Edmundson, Jaskin are all examples here. With the Blues having a little cap room to play with, I think they can give a reasonable offer here to Parayko, and in 2 years when the Stastny, Gunnarsson and Bouwmeester contracts are off the books, give him his big boy long term contract. This locks up your 2nd pairing defenseman for 2 seasons, and lets the Blues organization hold all the cards when it comes to negotiating in 2 seasons with 55 being an RFA. Parayko gets his raise of $2.8 million per year from his ELC.
7. RE-SIGN: Scottie Upshall- 2 year, $2.2 million- cap hit of $1.1 per year, Magnus Paajarvi- 2 year, $1.8 million- cap hit of 900k per year.
Scottie Upshall has earned a role in this lineup. He's a 4th line energy, and grinding player that provides a veteran presence in the bottom six and that's capable of scoring the odd goal, making a big momentum changing hit, or dropping the gloves when called upon. He was rewarded with a one year 900k deal last year, and I think a two year deal gives him a little security and a minimal raise that's in line with his other linemates. This deal would take him until he's 35, and by that time the Blues would be able to find another 4th line option internally or through another camp tryout, similar to how Upshall was signed in the first place. With Paajarvi, he still shouldn't be an everyday player on this team and should spend most of his time in the AHL, albeit on a 1 way contract to make him eligible to go through waivers. QUICK, name one contribution Paajarvi made to this team, aside from his series winning goal, which by the way Brad freakin' Boyes could've scored, by being in the right spot at the right time. He's a depth forward, nothing more, nothing less, and should be in competition with guys like Kenny Agostino and Ty Rattie for the 14th forward in the lineup.
So with these 7 moves, your 2017-2018 lineup would look like this, prior to any UFA signings, with roughly $1.6 million (+ what the cap goes up to) left in the bank.
Drouin- Stastny- Tarasenko
Schwartz- Berglund- Fabbri
Sobotka- Steen- Perron
Upshall- Brodziak- Reaves
Will that team win the Cup? If you said yes, raise your right hand in the air, because I want to see if you're gullible enough to fall for this twice. However, all of a sudden you have a legitimate first line with JD and the Russian Jesus. A scoring 2nd line, even with Berglund because he'll be flanked by puck moving skill players. A two-way, veteran presence of a third line, and your standard 4th line. You still would have the 20th overall pick in this year's draft, not to mention prospects like Thompson, Kyrou, Dunn and Walman still in the system. Plus, you can always add on with 6 other picks on days 2 and 3 of the draft. You can make the claim that they won't be signing any UFA's, but they wouldn't have to do anything except the PTO deals that have become all the rage.
In closing, it's unlikely that Drouin will be a Blue and they'll end up trading for another team's high priced struggling garbage (Eberle, Boedker, etc) because hey... It's what they do. This team drives us crazy, makes us shake our heads, and makes us hate ourselves, and yet we'll still have our hopes higher than they should be come October, followed by another fall, postseason failure. If you got this far in this article, I'm severely judging your life decisions that led you to this point in your life to where you're reading my ramblings about the team that's ruining mine. In other words, thank you, and follow me on that Twitter thing (@kfox9611) for more of my misery, and have yourselves another wonderful summer of not celebrating a championship.
Thank you. This shit was cheaper than therapy. Wait for a whistle. Tip your Game Time vendors.