A recent article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch highlights the discussion that fans have been partaking in ever since the Blues were booted from the playoffs by the LA Kings. Specifically, the discussion over a list of key free agents which includes Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart and Patrik Berglund.
The report indicates that while the Blues are not expecting to have to match any major offer sheets for these four players, they will do so should the situation arise.
The news that the Blues are prepared to match offer sheets for Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk was originally discussed quite some time ago. It's really no mystery that the Blues are planning on keeping both Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk in their ranks and they are prepared to pay a steep price to do it. However, the news that the Blues plan to treat Stewart and Berglund the same way might catch some fans by surprise.
Stewart's situation was one of the most puzzling and divisive. He showed the offensive talent that Blues fans have been clamoring for during the regular season, leading the team in points (36) and in goals scored (18). However, when the Blues took to the playoffs Stewart appeared to leave his threatening talent behind. He had one of the most disappointing performances against the Kings.
As for Berglund, he always seems to be one step away from being something truly special. The frustrating part is that this has been the case for the past several seasons. Berglund is a member of the St. Louis core - a core which has failed to produce a Cup. After yet another missed opportunity to claim a Cup, it might be time to split the core up.
I discussed the situations surrounding Stewart and Berglund back in the middle of May. At that time I mentioned that the Blues needed to be extremely cautious with their decisions. You don't want to hang on to a guy too long and keep deploying a core which won't win a title, but you also don't want to release him too soon and watch him rise to greatness with another team.
Now it appears that the decision has been made and that Doug Armstrong and the Blues plan on holding on to Stewart and Berglund. There's still a possibility the team decides to move them via trade, but it's clear the Blues won't allow any other NHL clubs to bully them through free agency.
This might mean that a different member of the core (David Perron, perhaps?) might be the one to go if the organization actually decides to shake things up.
I won't say I disagree with Armstrong's stance, although I am a bit surprised. I fully expected at least one of Berglund or Stewart to be with another team next year, if for no other reason than the cost of signing Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk. If they do wind up keeping all 4 of these RFAs, I don't see much salaryspace left for anything significant. Though they're under cap, they usually like to keep it that way- any chance you think they raise the payroll this year to bring in a new talent, or is it more likely given Armstrong's recent statements that we'll see a team very similar to last year?
@lizardkingjl That's a tough question. The payroll is going up without bringing in new faces which is what makes this situation so difficult to predict. Players will receive large raises which should mean a much larger team payroll this year than what we saw last year. The club will save a large chunk of money by not operating the Peoria Rivermen, but I'm not convinced that money will go straight to new contracts. It should, but you just never know when dealing with a team that struggles to break even.
If I had to guess, I think we will see some new faces in 2013-14. The Blues will pick up spare parts through free agency as they always do, but I think the team will make a trade which sends a familiar face packing. A move like this might keep salary roughly the same yet provide the change needed to climb the next step.
@David Rogers @lizardkingjl I think that's a good point- St. Louisans are spoiled on the Cardinals, who never struggle to make money, and the Rams, who make money as a part of the NFL machine. The Blues, however passionate the fan base, doesn't roll in the dough as much as their StL counterparts. Seeing as that's the case, and if Armstrong holds to his word about keeping the 4 big RFAs, you're probably right that trade is the most likely infusion of new talent. I had thought previously that Armstrong would let someone walk and target a center like Bozak or Weiss, but I don't think those guys could be afforded along with the RFAs. Any thoughts who the Blues might target for trades? I don't remember where, but I vaguely recall hearing that Stastny is available from Colorado- he's not exactly the kind of guy I was hoping to add, though.