By LOU KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Blues opened camp for 2017 on Wednesday and will run through Saturday featuring some of the top prospects in town trying to make an impression.
Among the participants include 2016 first-round pick Tage Thompson; 2017 first-round picks Robert Thomas and Klim Kostin; hometown goalie and 2015 fifth-round pick Luke Opilka, who was born in Effingham, Ill. but raised in St. Louis; 2014 third-round pick Jake Walman; 2016 second-round pick Jordan Kyrou and others.
Each day, camp consists of off-ice workouts, on-ice skills sessions and scrimmages. Four-on-four and 3-on-3 scrimmages begin at 2:45 p.m. daily, while on-ice skills sessions begin at 2 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. In addition, goaltenders take the ice for individual skill work starting at 1 p.m. each day.
All on-ice sessions are free and open to the public at the Ice Zone inside St. Louis Outlet Mall.
* Internal competition -- Blues general manager Doug Armstrong helped fill one need with the acquisition of Brayden Schenn to the crop of centers on the Blues roster in a deal made with the Philadelphia Flyers for a pair of No. 1 picks and Jori Lehtera, but what about replacing right wing David Perron?
The Blues lost Perron and his 18 goals and 46 regular-season points in the expansion draft and to the Vegas Golden Knights last week and now must search for a replacement for Perron's production and his minutes playing in a top-6 role.
With roughly $11.6 remaining in cap space for the season, the Blues will have to allocate those funds accordingly to their restricted free agents, namely defenseman Colton Parayko, and it will leave little money to play with.
So where will Armstrong turn to for a potential replacement?
"I would say right now it's more internally," Armstrong said. "We've got a defenseman we'd like to take care of financially and last time I talked to him, he wasn't ready to play for the love of the game anymore. We're going to make sure, try our hardest to take care of him. He's a big part of our future, too, and it's amazing how quickly the millions add up to a cap number. I would say that we were building to make sure that we had room for him and this year's cap is not fully spoken for, but there's a few million dollars to have laying around. I'm not sure it's going to get to the caliber player maybe some people think is available."
Some notable players that could draw interest for the right price include right wings Justin Williams of Washington and Radim Vrbata of Arizona, the ageless Jaromir Jagr of Florida, Thomas Vanek of Florida, Drew Stafford of Boston and Patrick Sharp of Dallas.
* Fabbri on track -- The rehabilitation on the knee of Robby Fabbri continues to stay on course, and the Blues' first-round pick of 2014 remains on course for the start of training camp.
Fabbri tore the ACL in his left knee Feb. 4 at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins and missed the rest of the season. He underwent successful surgery and has had no setbacks.
"I haven't talked to him in probably three or four weeks, but everything from the training staff, he got a clean bill of health from his doctor that did the surgery," Armstrong said of Fabbri. "He's on a little European vacation right now. I think he's over in Spain and then going to (Alexander) Steen's wedding and then getting back here.
"I think the guys are really focused on getting back here in mid-July and cranking it up. Robby understands from last year how his season started to guarantee a stronger start, a different approach over the summer I think is going to be necessary and I have zero question that that's going to come. Robby's a pro now and he understands what's needed from him, and he also understands this organization is counting on him. It's one thing to come into training camp with no expectations and no one's counting on you. His teammates know that he has to be a good player for us to be a good team. They're going to hold him as responsible as anyone."
Coach Mike Yeo intends on experimenting Fabbri back at his natural position of center to give the team a multitude of options down the middle, and with Patrik Berglund (dislocated left shoulder) out until December, it might be worth a shot.
"My conversation with Robby was that I wanted to see how it went, but I don't want to ruin his season by taking too long in training camp where it doesn't work and all of the sudden he doesn't have time to feel good about his game going into the season," Yeo said. "Certainly in the early part of camp, that's what we'll be doing. We may bounce back and forth a little bit. It's obviously something that intrigues us. I love his speed. The possibility of having somebody through the middle of the ice that can generate off the rush because of their speed, because of their ability to break away from people and obviously that's very intriguing."
* Butler re-signs for two years -- The Blues signed veteran defenseman and St. Louis native Chris Butler to a two-year, two-way contract on Wednesday.
The 30-year-old Butler appeared in 72 games for the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League last season and registered 26 points (five goals, 21 assists); he played in one game (the regular-season finale against Colorado) for the Blues last season.
Butler, who attended Chaminade High School with Paul Stastny, has dressed in 388 career NHL regular-season games and has 84 points (13 goals, 71 assists).
Butler was originally drafted in the fourth round of the 2005 NHL Draft by the Buffalo Sabres.