When the end of June hits, St. Louis Blues are doing a few things. Celebrating isn’t one of them.
Around this town as summer officially kicks off and the warm weather arrives, fans are awaiting the draft and what Doug Armstrong will do to further hinder his club or desperately attempt to rescue previous bad ideas. A couple years ago, he made a couple dazzling deals that brought Brayden Schenn to town. A year ago, he brought Ryan O’Reilly in while shedding some dead weight.
None of it mattered until the Blues did the unthinkable and won the Stanley Cup nearly two weeks ago. That last sentence isn’t bullshit, the team really did it. When you see Pat Maroon, Colton Parayko, and Joel Edmundson do shots on Andy Cohen’s Bravo show while looking like giddy children, the “pinch me” mechanism starts to wear off.
They did it and will drink for free all summer in this town, and Armstrong can rest easy. He won’t feel the sharp edge of pitchforks this summer, because the team he put together, and stood by in February, won the whole fucking thing. This means the bitching and moaning can cease to exist for a couple months, or four weeks at least. For once, you won’t hear fans dreading July 1 like a timebomb going off around the Enterprise Center.
Armstrong and the Blues had a quiet draft, and it was okay. They have around $17 million in free cap space with some players to decide on, but it will be fine. There’s no huge decisions to ponder over for too long. If you think Robby Fabbri is guaranteed to come back because he’s only 23, guess again. Players like Ivan Barbashev, Oskar Sundqvist, Sammy Blais, and even Zach Sanford should be considered first among restricted free agent forwards.
Joel Edmundson and Jordan Binnington will want to get paid, but I don’t see the Blues going long term on either. Maroon and Carl Gunnarsson share the biggest portion of the unrestricted pie, with the former being more likely to return.
A lot of it depends on if the team can get another GM to bite down on Jake Allen’s festering $4.35 million cap hit the next two seasons. You take that away and the decisions on the above players becomes easier to digest. Binnington had an incredible half season, but even his chilly veins can’t demand a monster deal without proving himself for a full year. Edmundson isn’t as vital as I would have said a year ago, and Maroon’s usefulness depends on his price.
Once again, none of the above should cause a true headache or demand the ire of the fan base. It’s still time to party at the Moon Tower, ladies and gentlemen. The sweetest thing about this offseason will be the lack of stress and the everlasting grace of surreal reality that the Blues are Cup champions. It finally hit me last week as I was driving around town. Somebody on the radio said, “in the wake of the Stanley Cup win for the Blues,” and I lost my shit. The car was pulled over and I screamed like a banshee. After apologizing to the poor old woman walking her small dog, I drove off.
This summer, don’t think too much. Enjoy the afterglow. Trust in Doug for once. He’s had a couple spry offseasons and his plan paid off. That wasn’t luck, people. You don’t go berserk for six months and call it luck. The plan fell into place, a few kinks helped out, and the team clicked. Instead of waiting until February to fire Mike Yeo, Armstrong did in November. He supported every Craig Berube hard-nosed decision afterwards. That’s guile personified.
For once, the NHL Draft wasn’t a make or break zone for the Blues and neither will free agency. Some players will remain Blues and others will be gone. A salary cap will cause a few stomach aches for fans and players, but come October when the flag is raised to the rafters, all there should be in St. Louis are smiles.
Float on a cloud for a little while. This rugged fanbase has earned the right to gloat.