The St. Louis Blues and Brayden Schenn have been a match made in heaven. And there’s no reason they cannot continue to live happily ever after. Schenn has one more year left on the four-year contract he signed with the Flyers in 2016. That deal paid him $20.5M, an annual salary of $5.125M.
With the emergence of Robert Thomas, some thought this could open the door to a possible Schenn trade. Or simply just letting him walk at the end of his contract. But there is a third option to consider. And that’s signing him to a long-term deal.
Now, there are a lot of things to look at. And yes, we are all probably still on the high from the Blues winning their first Stanley Cup. That is fair. There’s no shame in celebrating all the way to October. But at some point, Doug Armstrong will have to figure out what he wants to do with Schenn.
With a team that is likely to retain almost everyone from the Cup winning squad, there isn’t much to figure out this summer. Jordan Binnington will get a new lucrative contract. Pat Maroon and Carl Gunnarsson will likely receive offers, the latter already getting calls from other teams. And the Blues have a slew of RFA’s that have received their initial qualifying offers.
So there is time before Armstrong has to make a decision. But it wouldn’t hurt to look at some of the options out there. And that can start with looking at what Schenn may be looking for when he hits free agency.
To start, we can look at a few others players who finished this past season with around the same points as Schenn. And both of those players signed contracts this offseason. We’ll begin with someone who just signed an eight-year extension on Monday.
Karlsson is coming off a down season if you look at what he did in his first year with Vegas. In that season, he broke out with 43 goals and 35 assists, smashing his career high of 25 points. He came back to earth just a tad this season, posting 24 goals and 32 assists. His 56 points were still more than he ever had in a Blue Jackets uniform.
Now, Karlsson was never going to stay on the pace he was on in his first season in Sin City. He was shooting at 23.4% that season. His career average is around 14%. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a top player for Vegas. He has been on of the team’s most consistent players.
He is the only player in the team’s short franchise history to appear in every game for the team. That includes both regular season and postseason. He finished second on the team in points, only three behind Jonathan Marchessault.
Karlsson’s annual salary sits at $5.9 million. Schenn currently sits at just a bit above $5 million. Karlsson is probably the closest comparison for Schenn. But the next comparison could end up being closer to what he actually asks for.
It is well known that once a player hits the free agent market, teams are likely to end up overpaying. And at the moment, one could say that about the contract Hayes was given by the Flyers. Hayes split the last season between the Rangers and the Jets. He did post a career high 55 points, in the form of 19 goals and 36 assists.
The Flyers traded for Hayes’ rights on June 3rd, sending just a fifth-round pick to Winnipeg. It took them two weeks to officially sign the forward. The team gave him a lucrative seven year contract, worth $7.14 million annually.
Schenn has posted 55+ points three out of the last four years. He has reached the 20+ goals marks four times while this was Hayes’ first. So if Hayes can get over $7 million, Schenn will want a significant raise from his current contract. It would not be a surprise if Hayes’ contract is around what Schenn will be looking for.
This is when Armstrong has to make the tough decision. He can find a way to sign Schenn, trade him or even let him walk in free agency.
Could Schenn be re-signed?
The simple answer here is yes. The Blues will probably do whatever they can to lock up Schenn long term. He has been one of the team’s top players since he was acquired two seasons ago. Armstrong will do whatever he can to sign Schenn.
But he may have to get creative with money. While the Blues aren’t in a cap crunch per se, things will be tight after a few signings this offseason. With Binnington likely to receive a huge raise, it could make Jake Allen expendable.
Allen is making $4.35 million for the next two seasons. But he won’t be the starting goaltender unless Binnington regresses badly. Binnington will likely make around what Allen does now. The Blues cannot afford to set aside $8 million on two goaltenders.
The problem will be finding someone to take Allen. Could the Blues look to the Carolina Hurricanes? They just acquired Anton Forsberg but his numbers aren’t exactly solid. If they can’t re-sign Petr Mrazek, Armstrong could give them a call. Columbus is another option as they are likely to lose Sergei Bobrovsky.
Alexander Steen is another player that Armstrong could look to trade. Steen may be tougher to trade, however. Making $5.75 million the next two seasons, a team may not be willing to take on that contract. Steen looked better towards the end of the season, but his point totals have slowly declined over the last five seasons.
While a mentor to some of the team’s younger players, it may be time to find other opportunities for Steen. Armstrong will have to get very creative though. Will a team want to pay almost $6 million to a fourth-liner? A sweetener may have to be thrown into any deal involving Steen. Retaining money is an option, but shedding the salary would be the point in trading Steen.
Could Schenn be traded?
This is the only other alternative that seems like a possibility. The Blues have plenty of options at center. Ryan O’Reilly will be a fixture on the team’s top center spot for a long time. Thomas emerged in his rookie season and should find himself a spot next year. Tyler Bozak held things down quite nicely. Oskar Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev are capable options as well.
There is a chance Schenn’s value could never be higher than what it is now. And locking up Schenn long-term could hold back a player like Thomas from becoming a top-six player. It is safe to assume there would be demand for Schenn if the Blues made him available. And he almost was when the Blues were free-falling in early January.
Teams are known to pay up for playoff experience. And Schenn has a Stanley Cup victory in his back pocket. He also has a 70-point season under his belt. The Blues crowded center position could make Schenn expendable.
Schenn has previously expressed an unwillingness to move back to wing as well. If he still feels that way, he may not have a clear cut spot with the price he could be asking for.
Could Schenn end up walking?
This is the worst case scenario for Armstrong and the Blues. A lot of things would have to go wrong for Schenn to simply walk out as a free agent. It is hard to believe it would come to this. So we won’t put much thought into this possibility.
Losing Schenn for nothing would be a huge problem for Armstrong. With plenty of value, there is no reason to get nothing back if the Blues go the trade route. Schenn has also proven to be a fan favorite in St. Louis. So re-signing him could be at the top of the list.
No doubt this will be a tough decision for Armstrong and the Blues. But it is something they have to start thinking about.
What do you think the Blues should do with Schenn?
This poll is closed
Let him walk