Each off-season brings choices for a team’s front office. Many choices are harder to deal with than others, and the Blues’ top three unrestricted free agents haven’t made Doug Armstrong’s job any easier.
Mike Hoffman, who didn’t fit into coach Craig Berube’s system that well, was a healthy scratch several times, and who was rumored as trade bait up until the deadline, helped revitalize the Blues anemic power play straight into a finishing position as sixth best in the league. It’s difficult for the Blues to manage their playoff push without that punch.
Jaden Schwartz missed 16 games and saw his point production dwindle sharply in the 40 games he did play (8G, 13A). On the other hand, we’ve seen how the Blues play without his absence in the past, and it’s easy to question if it’s worthwhile to make that absence permanent through not re-signing him.
Tyler Bozak is the UFA who may not be getting his due attention, especially while fans are fixated on Jaden Schwartz’s situation (Hoffman, many feel, is a candidate for a one-and-done). Bozak, at age 35, is approaching the twilight of his NHL career. He said the wanted to come to St. Louis to win the Cup, which he did in his first season with the team.
There was the high hit from Mark Stone that knocked him out of commission for seven weeks this season - many fans questioned what impact could that have on Bozak’s play moving forward.
Upon his return, Bozak put a lot of that talk to rest. He finished up the season with 5 goals and 12 assists in 31 games played; two of those goals were shorthanded. He became an ice-time hog as the season wound down, and relished the increased responsibility, especially in the face-off circle, finishing the season with 56.8% of his draws this season.
Most 35 year old players miss seven weeks, and they return a shade of their former self. Not Bozak.
He hasn’t outlived his usefulness; in fact, this season was an advocacy for it.
He’s finishing up a three year deal at $5 mil AAV. That’s expensive for someone more than likely at the end of his career, but Bozak clearly has gas in his tank. Doug Armstrong needs to figure out how much he wants to pay per gallon. If he could get Bozak to agree to a bit of a hometown discount, another couple of years for the veteran center in St. Louis wouldn’t be the worst thing that Armstrong does this off-season.