It was a postseason to forget for the St. Louis Blues. After a brutal 4-0 sweep against the Colorado Avalanche, the Blues appear to be in dire straits. Vladimir Tarasenko wants out. The Seattle Kraken selected Vince Dunn with their expansion draft pick. Change is in the air in St. Louis — whether general manager Doug Armstrong wants it or not. The Blues need to reassess their lineup this offseason. Succeed, and they’re back in contending territory. Fail, and they run the risk of the Blues teams of the past; too bad to be good, but too good to be bad.
St. Louis Blues Offseason Needs to be Addressed
Three large needs stand out for the Blues: a top-scoring winger, defensive depth, and a bottom-pairing center. They’ll need all three if they hope to make a big impact next season. Armstrong has mentioned publicly that he hopes to play it safe this offseason. Many good teams often fall victim to costly contracts. The Florida Panthers, who will feel the wrath of Sergei Bobrovsky‘s contract for years to come, are a premier example of this theory in action.
This conservative approach will either net the Blues a few excellent deals or cause him to miss out on big fish like Gabriel Landeskog and Dougie Hamilton. No matter his approach, Armstrong will need to address all three of these issues if he wants the Blues to remain competitive.
Blues Offseason Need #1: Scoring Winger
Replacing Tarasenko’s scoring should be Armstrong’s top priority. Unfortunately, the free agent market has a wide gap between the big names and depth scorers. In an ideal scenario, Landeskog would be a premier signing for the Blues. He’s a tough, high-energy forward that can score — and his physical style would fit perfectly within head coach Craig Berube‘s system. Due to his reputation as captain of the Avalanche, Landeskog will likely come at a very high price. Additionally, there’s always a chance the Avalanche simply choose to re-sign him.
As far as other options go, the Blues may consider re-signing Mike Hoffman. The power play specialist performed amicably, amassing 36 points in 52 games. When deployed properly, Hoffman has met and exceeded expectations as an all-offence forward. Brandon Saad, another Avalanche forward, could fill the role of a middle-six winger, as well. Players like Tomas Tatar and Zach Parise are intriguing fits for budget signings. Blake Coleman, the hard-working forward from the Tampa Bay Lightning, would be a spectacular pick, but he runs the risk of a long-term deal similar to Barclay Goodrow‘s with the New York Rangers.
Blues Offseason Need #2: Depth Defenceman
With Vince Dunn out of the picture, the Blues have a need on defence. Unfortunately, the free agent market appears to be thinning by the day. Jamie Oleksiak and Adam Larsson have both signed deals with the Kraken. Gustav Forsling locked down a longer deal with the Panthers. The Blues will need to be more proactive on this front if they hope to secure a good depth defenceman. Dougie Hamilton is the biggest name on the market. His signing would likely make a massive difference on the Blues’ blueline. Hamilton, like Landeskog, won’t come cheap — in fact, he might sign the biggest deal of the offseason.
The Blues have a few up-and-comers on defence with Niko Mikkola and Jake Walman. Scott Perunovich is also an intriguing option. Until they’re ready, they’ll need defencemen who can fill in their role and serve as a mentor. If the Blues are looking for seasoned playoff depth, they’ll likely go with Alec Martinez. Should they look for a mentor, Ryan Murray may fit the picture.
The free agent defencemen market is full of specialists, as well. David Savard fills the need of a stalwart defensive-minded player, while Tyson Barrie is his polar opposite, a pure offensive weapon. The sheer versatility of these players is enough to encourage at least one to two signings out of Armstrong.
Offseason Need #3: Bottom-Six Center
Last on the Blues’ offseason list is a bottom-six centre. Tyler Bozak has done a fantastic job as the third-line centre with the organization. He was the team’s primary penalty-killing centre and helped to drive the third line alongside Mike Hoffman and Robert Thomas. Bozak is now 35. His production has steadily dropped over the years. Despite this, the late bloomer has carved a very pivotal role in St. Louis. Ultimately, it will come down to term if the Blues decide to re-sign Bozak. Armstrong may balk at a long-term deal if Bozak wants anything more than a one-year offer.
Should the Blues choose to move on from Bozak, they’ll need to replace his bottom-six production at centre. Of all the names available, Mikael Granlund is the most intriguing. The shifty centre scored 27 points last year on a Nashville Predators roster that fell short of goal-scoring expectations. Torey Krug could have a reunion with Boston Bruins centre David Krejci, though, like Bozak, Krejci is a little older. The Blues may even opt to stay with their current centres, promoting either Ivan Barbashev or Robert Thomas to 3C.
The Final Verdict: Good, But Not Quite There Yet
The Blues need to make a big splash this offseason if they hope to contend. Signing one of Landeskog or Hamilton would go a long way toward that. The odds of them netting one (or both) of the big-ticket names, however, is less than likely. Thus, they’ll need to focus on maximizing Tarasenko’s trade value, developing the depth, and figuring out their free agent situation.
Make no mistake — the St. Louis Blues are a good team, but they’re a few pieces shy of a contender.
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