The pending unrestricted free agent negotiations with Alex Pietrangelo are going to cause Doug Armstrong to make some hard decisions. The $81.5 million salary cap isn’t going up next season, and the Blues are right up against it. Pietrangelo is due a raise, and for good reason - he captained the Blues to the Stanley Cup, and his 52 points was good for fifth on the team. He was sixth among league defensemen in points, second in goals with 16, 11th in points per game played, second in power play goals, and ninth in game winning goals.
So, yes, re-signing him needs to be Armstrong’s top priority, and some pieces are going to have to get shuffled to make it work.
There are a few trade contenders on the team, but this being the Blues - and Blues fans loving their annual goalie controversy like they do - eyes are on Jake Allen. Jordan Binnington led the team to the Stanley Cup, right? He’s the starter, so why do the Blues need a tandem?
That line of questioning faded as the season went on. It became more apparent that Binnington was regressing toward the mean, and Allen? Allen was putting up career numbers. His .927 save percentage was eighth best in the league, and his 2.15 GAA had him sitting at fourth overall in the NHL. Jokes were made that Allen was boosting his trade value (I’m sure I made a few), but by the end of the season Allen was looking more like insurance if Binnington faltered in the post-season.
Allen did, in fact, turn out to be that insurance policy.
The Blues finished with another 1A/1B goaltender tandem situation, something that the fans should be used to seeing by now. There isn’t a clear-cut number one, at least heading into next season, and that question mark should get people to slow down on the talk of trading Allen for cap space.
Allen’s contract is finished after next season; so is Binnington’s. Trading Allen early leaves the Blues in a precarious position - Binnington would a rebound season, but you can’t be certain that will happen. The team would also have at least a season without a safety net. Ville Husso would finally get an opportunity to step up to the NHL, and he had a much better season last year in San Antonio than he did in the season before. A 2.56 GAA and a .909 save percentage is fine for a NHL backup - but what if that backup has to step up when the starter falters?
There are many unknowns going into every off-season, and every new season. Binnington could bounce back and be stronger than ever. He could not. Husso could get the call-up and rise to the occasion, or he might be the weak link on a team fighting to get another Cup before their window closes.
Allen could falter again.
You have to go with what you know, with the most recent evidence. Right now, there’s security in the tandem. Armstrong should find a way to make Pietrangelo work without sacrificing that. There’s an argument to be made that all of this is moot without the captain, but if he can stay without introducing an unknown into the most important position on the team, then Armstrong should make it happen.