The Blues deserved this weekend of celebration before the magnifying glasses came out and CapFriendly.com got bookmarked. The boys are in Vegas now waiting for the NHL Awards to start, so it’s fair to speculate now on the off-season.
The biggest question, of course, is what the Blues are going to do about their goaltending. Right now, they have a projected $18,733,334 in cap space. That’s going to go to signing pending UFAs Patrick Maroon and possibly re-signing Carl Gunnarsson, as well tending QOs as a slew of RFAs that include Ivan Barbashev, Zach Sanford, Oskar Sundqvist, Sammy Blais, and Robby Fabbri, and Joel Edmundson. Another pending RFA is Calder Trophy nominee and Stanley Cup champion/regular season savior Jordan Binnington.
Binnington’s last deal was, like the two before, a one year deal. The Blues didn’t exactly know where he was fitting on their depth chart, with Ville Husso above him and Chad Johnson signed as the backup goaltender, so a large contract wasn’t in the cards. After calling him up in January and the run that he’s had since then, there’s no way that he’s getting another one year deal, and there’s no way that deal is going to be $650,000.
The Blues got an absolute steal with Binnington this year, and they know it, he knows it, and his agent knows it. Doug Armstrong, in an interview with Sportsnet 590, said “He’s going to earn a big pay raise this summer and we’re looking forward to paying him.” It’s not too often a GM actively advertises a pay raise for a player and is happy about doing so, but I don’t see why Army would hide the fact that the player that saved the team’s bacon is going to get paid.
The question is, how much and how long? Binnington is 25 now; he’ll be eligible to be a UFA in two years. Armstrong has the option of a bridge contract for a couple years at a decent salary to see if this year was a fluke, or he can assume this year wasn’t a fluke and sign him long term based on the results of one season, which always works out well for the Blues and their cap (see: Alexander Steen and Patrik Berglund).
If you do a couple year bridge deal, what could potentially wind up happening is Binnington can leave as a UFA and make bank elsewhere if he as solid seasons over the next two. In that case, the Blues will be stuck with something worse than a goalie controversy. They’ll have a goalie vacuum. Jake Allen is a UFA in two years, and with a contract priced at $4,350,000 for each of those years, Armstrong may want to move him to clear up some space. That space more than likely will go to Binnington, and at an extended term.
Allen’s last contract is a good one to look at for what Binnington’s might be. Four years to get him into UFA territory, at a price that’s typical of a non-superstar NHL starting goalie. Unfortunately for Allen, his contract didn’t work out and he’s become more of a salary albatross than anything else. If the Blues can’t find a taker for that large salary, they’re stuck with either buying him out or with having a backup goaltender that’s getting paid a lot of money. The Blue Jackets will be in need of a starter, and Allen would save them nearly $3 million a season. Perhaps the Blues could work something out there on Friday or Saturday a la the Brian Elliott trade a couple seasons ago.
Sadly, even teams that win Stanley Cups aren’t immune to the business side of things.