It’s tough to evaluate the Blues’ off-season moves without leading off by talking about Matthew Tkachuk. Fans were banking on Armstrong trading for him to shore up the Blues’ offense, but no one was expecting the Florida Panthers to offer up Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar in return for Tkachuk. There was no way for the Blues to match that offer without making both their offense and defense measurably worse, so Tkachuk is going to South Florida.
That out of the way, the Blues appeared to have limited paths to improvement this summer, victims of the salary cap. As Jeff Gordon at the Post-Dispatch points out, the Blues aren’t the only team that had to wrangle with a flat cap. Colorado, Dallas, and Minnesota lost key players while the Nashville Predators re-upped Philip Forsberg, signed Nino Neiderreiter, and brought aboard former Blue Zach Sanford. The less said about the Arizona Coyotes and whatever the hell happened with the Chicago Blackhawks the better - but let’s just say that the Central Division will be a five team race, and the playoff positions more than likely will be an absolute bloodbath to get into.
Winnipeg, well, “status quo” is a term that comes to mind.
So, keeping pace is a goal but it should not be the goal. Did the Blues do anything to measurably put themselves at least in the same ballpark as the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche?
Notable Departing Blues:
- Ville Husso (25-7-6, 2.56 GAA, .919 SV%)
- Charlie Lindgren (5-0-0, 1.22 GAA, .958 SV%)
- David Perron (27G, 30A)
- Dakota Joshua (3G, 5A)
- Tyler Bozak (UFA, unsigned) (3G, 5A)
- Mackenzie MacEachern (0G, 2A)
Notable New Arrivals:
- Thomas Greiss (10-15-1, 3.66 GAA, .891 SV%)
- Martin Frk (2G, 0A)
- Josh Leivo (1G, 2A)
- Noel Acciari (3G, 5A)
The Blues will be relying on giving extended playing time to players who are already in the organization and who were re-signed, such as Nathan Walker, Alexey Toropchenko, Scott Perunovich and Jake Neighbors. They also re-signed defenseman Nick Leddy, maintaining status quo on the back-end and leaving fans to wonder if the team would be able to at least deal some of the log jam for a new key player.
The Blues lost 33 goals and added six. No pressure to the returning offense or anything, but they’re going to have to find a way to score by committee to make up for the loss of Perron.
The Blues lost two goaltenders, both of whom were expected to test the market, and they replaced them with a 36 year old goaltender coming off of the second worse year of his career. To be fair in regards to Greiss, the goaltender market wasn’t flush with opportunity, and Doug Armstrong had to find a way to sign a replacement for Husso while considering cap space.
Regardless, if Jordan Binnington stumbles, Greiss is the Blues’ next best option. Can he handle an increased workload in the same way Husso did? Greiss has experience, but age is not on his side.
With the salary cap being flat, the Blues - and many other teams in the NHL - are spinning their wheels and hoping that status quo, not a complete retool, will get them into the playoffs with a shot for success. The parity will be helpful for whoever that one team is that made adjustments to get them over that hump; for the rest, success is a crapshoot. No one can see into the future to be able to tell what kind of year Binnington will have or if the Blues’ defense will click, but it’s completely fair to wonder if the loss of Perron knocks the Blues down a peg or two when it comes to the division standings.