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Are the Blues in for a partial rebuild next year?

Recent cap speculation by the Post-Dispatch’s Jim Thomas might raise some eyebrows.

2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Seven Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Jordan Kyrou’s recent long term extension, coupled with Robert Thomas’ equally long and expensive extension, has Blues fans checking and scratching their heads. What kind of voodoo will Doug Armstrong have to work to get all of the pending UFAs signed?

Jim Thomas’ article from yesterday pointing out the cap gymnastics that the Blues are in store for is a reminder that this is a very real issue facing the team in very short order. He hammers home the urgency of the team’s pending uncertainty in an effective way that cuts through the cries of “this season hasn’t started yet” and “we’ll deal with it when we get there.”

He brought up Ryan O’Reilly.

If something can get a Blues’ fan’s attention faster than talking about the captain’s pending UFA status. O’Reilly’s current seven year deal, signed while he was a member of the Buffalo Sabres, sees ROR in for one final $7.5 million payday at age 32, a good close of a seven year term for a young player.

The bad part about this deal, an unhappy accident, is that O’Reilly’s contract expires the same time as a similar deal signed by Vladimir Tarasenko. Niko Mikkola is also going to be a pending UFA, along with Ivan Barbashev. New signings Noel Acciari and Josh Leivo, along with Thomas Greiss, will also be off of the books. Logan Brown and Alexei Toropchenko will be looking for RFA contracts.

The Blues will need to fill nine roster spots next off-season, and as Thomas points out, they will have just $15.95 million dollars to work with for all nine of those players. Toropchenko and Brown will, more than likely, get a bump over their current AAV of $750,000 each, so that may leave the Blues with closer to $12 million to fill the seven vacancies.

What can Doug Armstrong do?

Fans expect Vladimir Tarasenko to either go via trade or free agency after the end of this season, depending on the Blues’ position going into the stretch run and Tarasenko’s production. That’s $7.5 million off of the books, and I doubt any reasonable fan thinks that Armstrong can replace Tarasenko’s production or skillset with that money, A loss of Tarasenko, then, means the acquisition of probably two mid-tier players.

Acciari and Leivo? Again, this depends on their season here, but past this year they’ll probably be swapped for similar players.

The real question isn’t if the team is going to lose people, it’s who is it going to lose? Tarasenko is probably gone. Is Mikkola expendable? How much of a raise will Barbashev be in for after this season? What kind of a year will get him an extension, or what kind of season will make Armstrong go “no, he walks.”

How necessary is everyone? If any of the pending UFAs regresses in play over the course of this season, it wouldn’t be wise for fans to get too attached.

Right now, the end goal is icing a competitive team, and the question is if the Blues’ can do that without Ryan O’Reilly - and if Armstrong agrees with that assessment.