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The St. Louis Blues Can Build A Core By Extending Two Forwards

The St. Louis Blues can build a core by extending two forwards. This would help them contend for a Stanley Cup.

Building A Core

The off-seasons following the Blues 2019 Stanley Cup Championship have been interesting ones to say the least. There have been highs and lows. One off-season saw Alex Pietrangelo make his way to the Vegas Golden Knights. Another saw the Blues take advantage of three first-round picks in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.

As the Blues have transitioned from Stanley Cup Champions to a team retooling, Doug Armstrong has gone to work building the next core of the team. The two biggest moves Armstrong has made in that regard has been the contract extensions for Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou.

Thomas and Kyrou made their NHL debuts during the 2018-19 season. While both had their breakouts at different times, both have established themselves as core members of the Blues. Both have been All-Stars. Both have performed on the big stage of the playoffs.

As Thomas and Kyrou established themselves as core players, two other players joined the team and have made a difference.

Pavel Buchnevich

The Blues acquired Buchnevich from the New York Rangers in 2021. A few days later, Buchnevich received a four-year extension.

In his three years with the Blues, Buchnevich as proved to an asset to the Blues. Buchnevich has scored no less than 26 goals since joining the Blues and has recorded more than 40 assists twice. In three seasons, the Blues have only lost thirteen times in games in which Buchnevich records a point. Buchnevich has not just been an offensive asset for the Blues; he has also spent time on the penalty kill.

As the Blues have entered this retooling phase, Buchnevich has provided an offensive spark alongside Thomas and Kyrou.

Jake Neighbours

Neighbours was drafted in the first round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.  Neighbour’s draft report suggested he could be a goal-scorer who would be strong on the forecheck.

Neighbours played 52 games in his first two seasons in the NHL, only scoring seven goals. Last season, Neighbours got an opportunity as a full-time player. In 77 games, he scored 27 goals. He would have likely hit the 30-goal mark had he not gotten injured late in the season.

Neighbours’s breakout season gives the Blues another key piece to their offence moving forward.

Keeping the Core

To keep Buchnevich and Neighbours in the Blues core, the Blues will need to open their wallets.

Buchnevich is a free agent after this upcoming season. Buchnevich has a $5.8 million cap hit at the moment. He will probably make somewhere around $8 million in his next contract. The contract would be for about 6-8 years.

As a restricted free agent, the Blues do not have to extend Neighbours long term. However, doing so now gives the Blues a chance to sign him at the value his is now, not the value he would be at after multiple 27+ goal seasons.

Neighbours could get a contract similar to the one Buchnevich got after he was traded to the Blues, but for a longer term. A 6-year, 5.8 million a year deal would seem reasonable.

The Blues cap situation is important to remember. For these moves to happen, the team will need to try to move on from some other contracts.

A Core of Four

If the Blues can make it work they would have a core of Thomas, Kyrou, Buchnevich, and Neighbours. Four players capable of scoring over 30 goals is something any team in the NHL would want.

The Blues are a team that is retooling, but there is a lot of promise. Younger players like Matthew Kessel, Zachary Bolduc, and the incoming debuts of prospects like Jimmy Snuggerud and Dalibor Dvorksy suggest greater days are ahead for the St. Louis Blues. Keeping their core four together would help bring those great days sooner.

Main Photo: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports


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