By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- When the final whistle blew on April 10, it marked the end of a disappointing Blues season where a follow-up on a postseason berth was widely expected.
Regression was never in question.
And while the Blues fell short of those expectations at the end of the day, it also began the start of the retooling process for 2010-11.
So the Blues, who were 40-32-10 (90 points) and five points out of the rugged Western Conference playoff race, must begin the process of figuring out how to move forward, not backwards.
So what does this team need? What must they add? What will be subtracted from the roster? Many questions are on the surface.
We'll try and provide some answers with analytical points of view.
First, here is a breakdown of the 2009-10 Blues players, who I believe will stay, who will go and those returning, what they must do in order to elevate their respective game to the next level:
C Andy McDonald -- He obviously will be back after leading the Blues with in points (57) and tied for the team lead in goals (24). McDonald, 32, will be in the second year of a four-year, $18.8 million deal. My take on McDonald is he has been misused much of the last two seasons. Simply stated, McDonald is not a winger, he is a center and must return to his natural position. What I noticed most about McDonald is he gets overworked on the puck along the boards and in the corners. McDonald is 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds. He's not Keith Tkachuk or David Backes. Yes, I believe McDonald must build a bit more strength this off-season, but what is his best asset -- speed! He is at his best playing in open ice and creating plays for his linemates. McDonald is a playmaker, plain and simple. I hope Davis Payne sees this.
LW Paul Kariya -- At the beginning of the season, I would have said this would have been Kariya's last season of a disastrous three-year, $18-million contract. From a PR standpoint, the Blues got everything they wanted out of this because a high-profile player drummed up business and put people back in the seats. On the ice, this contract was ... well, do I really need to spell this out? But I can see Kariya, 35, back in a Blues uniform next season. Kariya, who missed virtually all of 2008-09 after two hip surgeries, finally was refreshed and playing with relentless vigor and passion towards the end of last season to finish with 18 goals and 43 points in 75 games. Kariya has made it clear he loves St. Louis and would welcome a return, but the Blues are mum on whether they will extend a contract offer to him. There is also the possibility Kariya retires. That's yet to be determined. Look, the market for premier scorers will be scarce and those that will be out there are going to be expensive. If Kariya would take a one- or two-year deal at, say, $2 million per season, I believe this can be a marriage that works out. After all, shouldn't the player show a little compassion for the franchise that stuck with him through 36 goals and 123 points for three seasons?
RW Brad Boyes -- He will be back, with two years and $8.5 million remaining on his contract. But this one is real easy to summarize -- Boyes, 28, has nowhere to go but up. After seasons of 43 goals in 2007-08 and 33 in 2008-09, Boyes had a disastrous season with 14 goals and 42 points despite playing in all 82 games. His iron man streak continues to grow (409 games) but Boyes gets paid to produce points (more specifically, goals), and that was a far cry this past season. I can't tell you how many times I watched games last season and was just waiting for Boyes' one-timer from that left circle. It was virtually non-existent or he was either breaking his stick or fanning on his shots. If the Blues are looking to add scoring punch, look no further than some of the guys they have on their roster. Boyes would be right at the top of the line. Boyes, who will be getting married this summer, must go into this off-season, work hard at getting his timing down again and work on getting to those prime scoring areas. Practice good habits. But I believe timing issues hurt his game immensely. He would show flashes from time to time and have fans believing he would be on the brink but then go right back into a funk again. I believe Boyes has to get back to 30 goals in order for the Blues to get maximum production from him. Forty-plus is asking for much. But if Boyes can get back to 30 goals, the Blues would be thrilled.
RW David Backes -- Backes will most certainly be back and with good reason. This guy exemplifies what an NHL captain is and should be, and I think subliminally, there was a passing of the guard of that when Tkachuk retired. But I can say the same things about Backes, 25, that I said about McDonald: I think the guy is playing out of position. This is a power forward that is suited to crashing and banging on the wing with his big 6-3, 225-pound body. I think Backes was adequate playing down the middle, I believe his goal production (17) dropped from a year ago (31) as a result. But Backes did collect a career-high 31 assists this past season. I don't think Backes' point production was as noticeable as some others because of the passion and energy he plays with. It's unparalleled. This guy brings it on his sleeve each and every night and other than getting him back to his natural position. It's duly noted that Backes is a slow starter, and he will take some more time this summer to allow his body to rest and heal from the grueling schedule. Backes was part of the US Olympic team in Vancouver and turned down an opportunity to play for the US team at the World Championships. I believe once Backes gets back to playing wing, he can clog space and create with his above-average speed for his size. I believe his goal production will increase. And this will one day be the Blues' captain.
LW Keith Tkachuk -- Tkachuk, 38, will not don the Bluenote next season, but it will be by choice because 'Big Walt' announced his retirement this season. A lot was made of Tkachuk's career, which began in 1991 with the Winnipeg Jets and has culminated into a Hall of Fame career with the Blues. A left winger by trade, Tkachuk did whatever was asked of him as his career came to the end, even moving into the middle when Andy Murray asked him to. As a media member who covered Tkachuk from the moment he arrived in St. Louis in 2001, I always appreciated his honesty and candor. He can be intimidating when first meeting him, but as his teammates will attest to, Tkachuk was the consummate leader and teammate. The biggest disappointment to a brilliant 18-year career is there will be no Stanley Cup title to his playing resume. But 'Walt' couldn't have said it better in his final game to the fans: believe in the process. Always the professional, filled with class.
LW Alex Steen -- Steen is a restricted free agent, but he most certainly will be back next season. Not only will the Blues tender him a contract, but they should reward him with a nice extension in the three-, four-year range and around $3 million or so after making $1.7 million last season. Steen, 26, was arguably the Blues' best player this past season and not just by the numbers he put up, but his two-way game was scintillating. This guy killed penalties, he anchored the point on what was at times a stagnant power play, he played on a line that would often be asked to shut down the oppositions top line and oh yeah, he tied for the team lead in goals with 24 and set a career-high in points with 47. All I think Steen needs is for the Blues to add him in a more prominent scoring role. I know, it's hard to take him away from his defensive duties since he plays them so well, but at 26, I think this guy's career is starting to blossom. He is becoming a Blues fan favorite and with good reason. Fret not, Blues fans, because Steen isn't going anywhere. At least he shouldn't be. This ought to be one of the Blues' top priorities, and I believe it will be.
C Jay McClement -- McClement will be back as the Blues' top-checking center next season, the second of a three-year contract. I know McClement, 27, goes unnoticed a lot because of his role, but folks, this guy plays his role as close to perfection as can be. The Blues' second round pick of 2001 has been asked to shut down the top lines since his arrival in the NHL in 2005, and he's done it as well as can be expected. McClement tallied 11 goals and 29 points this past season, but that's about what you're going to get out of him. McClement is going to continue to play the third line center position, play important minutes on the penalty kill, which was tops in the league this year, and pop in the occasional goal or assist. McClement has scored 23 goals the last two seasons, so maybe his offensive production is on the rise. What I'd like to see McClement do more in order for that to happen: shoot the puck more. There have been times when he passes up shots to make that extra pass. He has a nice shot. Maybe using it more can increase that goal production.
C T.J. Oshie -- Oshie will be traded this off-season. Whoa! I'm just kidding. No heart attacks now! Seriously, Oshie, has one more year left in his entry-level deal -- he will be back -- before he can become a restricted free agent. Whether the Blues give him an extension early or not is yet to be noted, which I doubt will happen. That will be their mission next summer. But Oshie, 23, built on his rookie season where he scored 14 goals and 39 points. He went from 14-25 to 18-30 but he did so in 76 games as opposed to 57 games his rookie season, so the point production should have jumped up more than nine points. But as the case with McDonald and Backes, I'd like to see Oshie moved back to his natural position of center instead of right wing. I'm one to believe that Oshie is more effective in the open ice rather than on the wing. His skating ability is relentless and tenacious and I believe he can add more offensively by skating down the middle of the ice with the puck. His ability to kill penalties was also a plus for this team, but he is one of a pack of young players that must take that leap next season in order for the Blues to become a solid playoff-contending team. The former No. 1 pick of 2005 is one of the cornerstone pieces of this franchise. Time for him to make that leap into the 20-25 goal area next season.
C Patrik Berglund -- Like Oshie, Berglund will go into the final year of his original entry-level contract and he will be back next season. When the Blues drafted Berglund with their second first-round pick of 2006, I predicted within five years, he had the ability to be one of the top 5-10 centers in the league. But Berglund, 21, regressed this season, and his benching of one game late in the season for missing practice was the climax of an up-and-down season. After scoring 21 goals and 47 points his rookie season, the 6-4, 215-pound Swede dropped off to 13 goals and 26 points this season. He never could gain confidence playing under Murray but began to pick his game up under Payne. When Berglund is going, the Blues are a much better team. For Berglund to make that next step, he must work at being stronger on the puck and using that long reach to his advantage. He also has to work on his defensive zone coverage, show more determination skating without the puck and not stay away from penalties that involves the stick-work because of laziness. I think this player can become a tremendous talent, but the desire and work ethic can leave a little to be desired. Berglund needs to come to camp next season ready to play with more passion and determination for the Blues to stride forward. I believe he is one of Payne's more challenging projects but one that will work.
RW David Perron -- Perron is a restricted free agent, but the Blues will work out a contract extension for him and he will be back ready to build on a 20-goal season. There's no denying Perron's talent and skill level. He is the hockey equivalent of a gym rat. The guy would rather be on the ice 24-7 if he had his way. That's how much he loves the game. He had a career-high 20 goals and was three points off of last season's pace of 50 points. Perron, 21, has lots of skill and displays his on-ice talents with the puck. I believe he can be a 30-goal scorer in this league is -- like McClement -- he doesn't pass shots up and can get a shot off quicker rather than holding the puck. There have been times when he passes up shots in order to make an extra move. If he can get shots off more quickly, it should boost his goal production. Also, Perron also must work on his lazy stick-work on the back-check and in the defensive zone, which has led to some ill-timed penalties. He also has been inconsistent with his decisions with the puck in the neutral zone, which has led to poor passes and turnovers that has led to odd-man rushes. Quicker shots, better decision-making and smarter with the stick will help Perron elevate his game entering his third NHL season. Remember people, he's only 21 (turns 22 on May 28) so there is still growth and development there. But the prognosis is promising.
RW B.J. Crombeen -- The proud papa -- his wife just gave birth to a baby boy a week or so ago -- has one year remaining on his contract before he becomes a restricted free agent, but he will also be back to play that role of checking forward that he, McClement and Steen did so well against opposing top lines. Crombeen, 24, gives you size (6-2, 210) and some scoring pop (seven goals, 15 points last season) and can throw down the gloves, which he did when a spark was needed. Crombeen is the consummate teammate and is the type of guy you'd want by your side if a precarious situation. He'll go to bat for you in an instant and plays the game with great passion. His hits are felt, just ask opposing players. He has the knack of taking space away from open-ice skaters and forces you to play with purpose. There will be no prancing around the ice with this guy out there, or else you'll pay the price. The one thing I'd like to see from Crombeen is being more of a presence in front of the net when in the attacking zone. His size and strength makes him a good target for some of those tip-ins and garbage goals in front of a clogged net. But to think, the Blues got this guy on waivers from Dallas. Another reason to thank Hullie for letting him get away.
LW Brad Winchester -- Winchester is an unrestricted free agent and I believe will not be back with the Blues next season. He signed a one-year, $800,000 deal after a solid 2008-09 in which he scored 13 goals. But Winchester was too inconsistent for what the Blues needed out of him. He had stretches when he played with an edge, which is his game to a tee, but those were far and few in between. He took too many bad penalties for a fourth-line winger and was a non-factor with three goals in 64 games. He lacked the ability to make smart plays, particularly in the offensive end when he took some of his bad penalties and just was a non-factor in front of the net. When Winchester was good, he was a difference-maker in front of the opposing goal. It just didn't happen often this season. The Blues will quietly part ways and save a few dollars here.
RW D.J. King -- 'King Kong,' who has not played much the past two seasons because of various injuries, is a restricted free agent and his return next season is highly questionable. I would say the Blues tender King, 25, and bring him back just because he's one of the meanest SOB's in the game. This guy can win a fight by TKO with one swing of that mammoth right hand. King, when healthy, does give the Blues a big body on the fourth line that has the ability to make a play or create space for somebody else. Just his presence in the lineup is intimidating enough. His skating ability is not too bad for a big man (6-3, 230) and his stick-handling is better than one would expect for an enforcer. The Blues have a decision to make here, but I think King stays on, unless they can make a deal for a pick at the draft.
LW Cam Janssen -- This is where it gets interesting for the local boy from Eureka, Mo. Janssen, like King, is a restricted free agent and will get a tender from the Blues. John Davidson, in the past, has insisted on keeping both Janssen and King, but I don't see the Blues going forward with both of them. They're never in the lineup together. When one plays, the other sits. We all know how Cam plays: mean, meaner and meanest. If a fight would exhaust two people for, say, 2-3 minutes, Janssen would do his best to be the last man standing. He delivers bone-crunching hits, follows through with his checks and is not afraid to sacrifice his body. But it never made sense to me before to keep both of these guys, and it doesn't make sense to me now. Even though he's the local guy and one of the most quotable people I've met in this locker room, I see the Blues trying to deal one of their two fighters for a draft pick. And Janssen may be the most attractive of the two because of King's injury history. I am totally stumped by this and don't have a clue as to JD's thinking here, but I will say one stays and one goes. And I believe Janssen, 26, would be the one to go.
LW Matt D'Agostini -- When the Blues acquired D'Agostini, 23, from Montreal before the trade deadline for Aaron Palushaj, I didn't quite understand why. But as Davidson explained, the Blues were in need of a ready-made NHL player at the time because of injuries to the forward line. D'Agostini is a restricted free agent and will also get a tender, but I hardly saw enough of him to give an honest opinion of the guy simply because he did not play much here. Seven games, to be exact. I think the Blues must find out exactly what they got in this trade, because I still don't think they know -- I know Payne doesn't have much of an idea considering how little D'Agostini played. I believe he will be back at minimal cost (he made $500,000 last season) and will have a chance to compete for a third- or fourth-line spot or will play in Peoria. D'Agostini scored 12 goals with Montreal in 2008-09, so there has to be something there. It's up to the Blues to find out what.
C Lars Eller -- Eller, the Blues' top pick in 2007, played his first seven NHL games this past season and scored two goals -- both in similar fashion. Eller, the soon-to-be 21-year-old, has a great shot at making the Blues' roster next season after a good first season in Peoria, but I believe he will at least start the season with the Rivermen and for the same reason he believes: he needs to get stronger. There's no doubt Eller has a great future in this game, I firmly believe that. But even by his own admission, he has to get stronger than his 6-1, 198 frame offers. During his stint here, Eller was smooth with the puck, showed tremendous poise in front of the net (he scored both goals on tip-ins) and is not afraid to play the body. His best game was in Philadelphia on Nov. 7. It wouldn't surprise me if Eller made the leap so quickly to the NHL, but I believe another season in the AHL might do him good.
C Derek Armstrong -- Derek Armstrong was brought in for depth purposes and to provide some veteran presence in Peoria, but he was here on a one-year deal and is an unrestricted free agent. He will not be back next season.
Eric Brewer -- We might as well start off with Blues fans' whipping boy since his arrival from Edmonton in that trade for that one guy -- yeah, I think his name is Chris Pronger? Brewer, the Blues' embattled captain, enters next season in the final year of a four-year contract he signed in February 2007. The players like the guy and respect his leadership qualities in the locker room, but I believe Davidson will dangle Brewer, 31, in trade talks simply because they can deal from a position strength -- defense -- that could bring back a need -- forward, preferably a scoring one. I just don't know that at $4.5 million remaining on his contract, the Blues will attract a buyer. In the meantime, if not dealt, Brewer will be among the top six defenseman and at times, played well paired with Erik Johnson last season. I was impressed with Brewer's ability to join the rush and get involved offensively and it brought eight goals, which tied a career-high. I know Brewer can be frustrating to watch sometimes, simply because the guy does make mistakes in his own end -- and costly ones. He is lucky to be playing after coming back in November after a pair of back surgeries that was thought at one time to be career-threatening. When I watch Brewer, I see a guy that has the ability to make that crisp pass from his own end to one that gets beat because he prefers to play space instead of playing the man. His coverage in the defensive third has been inconsistent as well but other times, he understands what play to make. If Brewer is back here, he will be playing for a contract, so look for an inspired player and one that can help this team if he plays with a more consistent approach.
Erik Johnson -- The top overall pick of 2006, who missed all of 2008-09 with that serious knee injury, is a restricted free agent but fear not Blues fans, Johnson is not going anywhere. He will be rewarded well with a new deal very soon. Johnson, 22, led all Blues defensemen with goals (10) and points (39). His game was good this season considering it was his first full season after knee surgery. He also culminated a solid NHL season by playing for Team USA with Backes in the Winter Olympics. As the season progressed, Johnson's ability to read the play and be involved offensively is what this franchise has been looking for. Once he fully understands his shot from the point is lethal, the sky's the limit for this kid, whether playing 5-on-5 or on the power play. I want to see Johnson move forward with his budding career use that shot of his more often. If Johnson can get that point shot off quicker and more often, 15-to-20 goal seasons is not far fetched. Too many times this season, Johnson would show hesitation in that point shot and he has it blocked. I think with repetition, he'll get that worked out. Johnson's zone coverage also could use some work as well. I know he's made it a point to work on his two-way game. Look for that to be an improved area as well. Like the doctors have said, Johnson won't be back at full strength until the second season back from injury. The future looks bright for Johnson, and Blues fans have yet to see him at his best.
Barret Jackman -- Jackman, a mainstay with the Blues since 2002, has two years and $7.5 million remaining on his four-year contract. He was also a target of Blues fans down the stretch of the season but reports say he played with an injured back/neck after being injured April 2 in Nashville. Like Brewer, I believe Jackman will be trade bait this summer as the Blues look to add scoring punch. It was reported that the Blues received inquiries about Jackman at the trade deadline, so he may have more value than Brewer. However, if Jackman is not traded, he will also be among the top six defensemen back and for most of the season, played very well when paired with Roman Polak. Jackman, 29, is the type of defenseman a coach loves to have. He's strong, plays with an edge and is a terrific penalty killer. When on his game, Jackman is a physical player who goes up against the opponents' top guys. What surprised me was to see Jackman make costly turnovers in his own end and a number of them ended up in the Blues' goal. His decision-making with the puck in his own end, particularly on outlet passes, must improve. He's been in the league long enough to make those kinds of mistakes and fans grew weary of it. I've always liked Jackman's dedication and willingness to play through pain. He is to be commended for that desire, but it's also OK to step aside for the betterment of the team and let your body heal if hurt. He is a nice compliment to the young Polak.
Carlo Colaiacovo -- Colaiacovo has been a nice addition to the Blues since being acquired from Toronto, but he is an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and I believe he will move on and sign elsewhere. It has nothing to do with Colaiacovo's abilities, but the Blues have a position of strength and need to allow some of their young D-men a chance to make this team moving forward. Colaiacovo, 27, had a solid season playing with Mike Weaver, a nice compliment of a defensive-defenseman and Colaiacovo's offensive-minded play. He was a nice left-handed option that scored seven goals and had 25 assists. But he also was a liability at times in his own end, particularly with coverage areas, who made $1.4 million and I believe will receive an offer -- once on the market -- that the Blues won't match.
Roman Polak -- Polak, 23, has one more year on a contract before he can become a restricted free agent. He is going nowhere. Polak may have been the Blues' best all-around defenseman this season, who also represented his country (Czech Republic) at the Winter Olympics. How does one describe Polak? Well, he's a beast and a bear to play against. His defensive ability is so effective, Payne used him a lot against some of the game's best simply because his size was complimented with better-than-average speed. You do not want to play against this guy in the corners. Chances are, he will win every battle there. You don't have much luck with him in front of the net either. His offense, which will be better with time, is better than most people think. His shot from the point is deceptively good. He just needs to utilize it more. He will be a Blues mainstay for years to come.
Alex Pietrangelo -- The No. 4 overall pick of 2008 will enter the second year of his three-year entry level contract next season, and finally, I believe the man everyone knows as 'Petro' will have a better-than-average shot to be one of the top six defensemen on this team next season. I believe he will be. I believed Pietrangelo, 20, should have been playing here from the start, but the Blues thought he needed to grow and develop. And after watching his first nine NHL games, I came away with the conclusion that 'Petro' needed to grow into his body and become a stronger player. Does Pietrangelo need a year in Peoria? Perhaps, but I'm anxious to see what he is able to do this summer and how he comes into camp in September. If 'Petro' shows the ability to play with the big boys, particularly in his own end, he will be here next year. There's no question regarding his offensive capabilities. I never believed that to be an issue. It always seems to come down to his play in the defensive third. From all reports, Pietrangelo's game in all facets have improved greatly each season. He will make it difficult for the Blues to send him away again.
Darryl Sydor -- Sydor, a veteran at 38 years of age, was signed to a $1 million dollar, one-year deal to add depth to a defensive unit and will be an unrestricted free agent. But he will not be back next season. If he plays again, it will be elsewhere, as he told me he still has the fire and desire to play the game. I thought Sydor played solid down the stretch for this team, but he was nothing more than a stopgap for one season. His best days are obviously behind him, but the money saved here will be wisely spent elsewhere. I just feel he's too slow to keep up with today's NHL player anymore.
Mike Weaver -- Talk about a guy that came here under the radar. But then again, this defines Weaver's career. Weaver, 31, will be an unrestricted free agent, but I think the Blues will attempt to sign him to a contract to be a six or seven defenseman. Simply put, Weaver was the best defensive defenseman the Blues had this past season. His play in the defensive zone was downright immaculate. From killing penalties to blocking shots, to disrupting the opponents' flow, winning puck battles ... I can go on and on. Weaver proved me wrong, since I saw him as nothing more than a depth guy, but like his entire career, he did his job well and proved the skeptics wrong. Weaver will not give you anything offensively, nor will he claim to. He scored his first goal in 185 games this past season and was kidded for it. At the beginning of the season, I would have said no way does he make it past this season. But I believe the Blues are a better team if they keep Weaver, maybe reward him with a one- or two-year deal at $1 million per year.
Tyson Strachan -- Strachan, 26, is an interesting project. He is a Group VI unrestricted free agent that I would like to see the Blues somehow keep because of how he kind of came out of nowhere and proved to be a good value defenseman. But I somehow see Strachan going somewhere else because he'll feel like he can make another squad. Strachan is rugged, sturdy, plays zone coverage well and reads plays with authority. His ability to limit a skater's space in the defensive end is impressive because he surveys the ice well. It'll be a shame to see the Blues lose him, but I believe they will because there simply won't be any room for him here. And I'll find it hard to believe he will sign here to go to Peoria again.
Jonas Junland -- A restricted free agent heading into this summer, the Blues must decide what to do with their third round pick of 2006. What I was told from Junland's season in Peoria, he played solid, steady hockey. When he came to the Blues, you can see his ability to break down the plays in the offensive zone and his knowledge of stepping into the play is there. He shows no fear making a play in the offensive end, but his defensive work has some work to do. He tends to make the wrong reads at times and that has hurt him in the few games he's played in the NHL. However, he is a very confident player and a solid attribute. Junland, 22, displayed his dedication by coming to the AHL to play but may want to go back to Europe unless given a legitimate chance to play here in St. Louis. I just don't see that happening unless a trade or two happens. That's why I say the Blues can trade from a position strength.
* Note (updated April 30) -- There are reports that Junland signed a one-year contract with Färjestads BK of the Swedish Elite League, a sign he felt like he wasn't in the Blues' plans for the 2010-11 season. However, Junland still has aspirations of playing in the NHL, but it may not be here. I can't imagine Blues management is too happy with this decision.
Chris Mason -- Mason, 34, will be an unrestricted free agent and judging by the market for goalies this summer, I believe the Blues and Mason will get an agreement done before he hits free agency. Mason has shown he's more than capable of being a No. 1 goalie and won a career-best 30 games this past season. We all saw how good he was leading the Blues into the playoffs last season and he was good again this season. He's had stretches where his play is sub par, but what goalie doesn't go through their rough stretches in a season? It's all about minimizing it. Mason is the ultimate competitor and hates to lose as much as anyone. You could hear the passion in his voice when the Blues lost games and fell out of the playoffs at the end. When Mason is at his best, he's challenging shooters and cutting down their angles, corralling rebounds and keeping them under control. I would not have a problem giving him a two- or three-year deal, but if he's looking for $4-4.5 million, I'd have to second-guess that. Two or three years at $3.5 million might get the job done.
Ty Conklin -- Conklin, 34, showed he can be more than a capable backup. His play on the road was stellar this season. Too bad the Blues couldn't get those same results on home ice. He will have one more year at $1.4 million left on the two-year deal he signed last July. Can the Blues rely on Conklin to be the No. 1 guy if Mason or another free agent isn't added, I'm not certain on that. But Conklin is a proven winner and has played in more than his share of big games, so maybe he wouldn't be a bad fallback. It's just amazing the comparisons between home and away this season. The Blues have a solid backup no matter which way they choose to go.
Ben Bishop -- Bishop, another local boy from St. Louis who went to Chaminade High School, was in Peoria this season and preliminary reports indicated the Blues were not pleased with his growth and development at the AHL level, which is a big reason the team is willing to bring in another No. 1 goalie. Bishop was 23-18-4 in Peoria this season with a 2.77 goals-against average with a .901 save percentage in his second full season in the pros. I would think he's destined for Peoria once again next season.