Saturday, July 2, 2022


ST. LOUIS -- Under normal circumstances, the NHL's free agent frenzy would have began on Friday. 

That should come to fruition again in 2023, but with it being another 11 days away on July 13 this year, the Blues could have some business to take care of pertaining to some of their own players that could hit the open market by then should no contract be in place.

As of Friday, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong had nothing new to report on pending unrestricted free agents, namely David Perron, Nick Leddy, Ville Husso and/or Tyler Bozak.
All can hit the open market if the Blues and said players don't come to a contract resolution between now and then.

Armstrong indicated on May 31 that he would like to have the 34-year-old Perron back and in the team's plans moving forward. He also said he would never say never in retaining all said players if possible. 

But in the next week and a half, things should come to some form of clarity. There was no clarity when Armstrong spoke on Friday.

"Nothing to really report there and quite honestly, not surprising," Armstrong said. "What happens in my experiences, everyone that has baited their hooks,  they've all thrown them in the pond now and everyone's waiting for a nibble and that usually happens within 3-4 days of the draft. I think there's an interesting dynamic in the hockey world that teams, some managers, some teams think that there's going to be a lot of buyouts. Some managers and teams think there's going to be a lot of players not qualified and some agents think all their players are going to get rich. Well, that's not all going to happen, so someone's going to be wrong on this because it's not only a flat cap this year, flat adding one million dollars, but the projection is it's one million this year, one million the year after and you've really seen a push for younger players to grab a larger portion of the salary cap pie at earlier years, which obviously deflates the market for older players. You've seen seen a number of young defensemen last year that went from an entry level or like low bridge deals into the eights and nines (millions). I saw some forwards do it, we saw (Kevin) Fiala go from a bridge to a longer-term contract now. I think guys with restricted years now are starting to grab the security. I think the league is now trending towards a younger man's league. I think teams are more willing now to invest in unproven players, i.e. now 500-game players or 600-game players with the hope of maybe perception of an overspend now to a fair deal where you maybe get the benefit of it at the later part of it. I personally have never been a big proponent of that because I find mistakes are difficult to get out of but I'm not saying that that can't be something we have to look at in the future."

Perron had a fantastic season, scoring 27 goals, which was just one shy of his NHL best with Edmonton in 2013-14 and was a catalyst for the league's second-ranked power play; he finished with 58 points in 67 games this season. 

After wresting the starter's job away from Jordan Binnington during the regular season, Husso will more than likely test the market. He will have suitors for his services to move elsewhere and become a starter after going 25-7-6 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .919 save percentage this season.

Leddy, 31, was acquired in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL trade deadline on March 20 and provided the Blues with much-needed veteran stability on the left side of the defensive unit. He is likely to draw interest on the open market on a presumed four- or five-year contract after playing for an average annual value of $5.5 million.

The 35-year-old Bozak played last season for the league minimum but gained money through bonuses reached. It is uncertain which direction the Blues will go as far as the veteran who spent his last four seasons in St. Louis is concerned.

* Toropchenko to miss start of season -- Promising young Russian winger Alexei Toropchenko will miss the start of the 2022-23 season after having shoulder surgery.

The 23-year-old, who came on strong and made an impact on the lineup playing just 28 regular-season games during the regular season and all 12 Stanley Cup playoff games, will be out until early December, according to Armstrong.

"It is a tough blow, but it is one of those ones where he could have potentially played with it and then if he got injured again, then you're looking at a 4-5 month surgery," Armstrong said. "If it's a marathon, he's at mile four or five and we didn't want to get into training camp and then all of the sudden on Nov. 1st, it happens and he misses the whole year. We just thought it was prudent to get it taken care of now so A) it's strong and when he comes back, he doesn't have to worry about it, but of all of the surprises, I think he would have been the one that's impressed us the most. He probably started furthest back in the pack to get where he ended up. He went from a call-up player to a regular player to a player that Craig (Berube) would use higher up in the lineup, size, skates, physical, great team guy. It's strange to say for a guy that's played less than 40 or 50 games, whatever it is, but we're going to miss him actually in October and November. We can't wait for him to get back."

Armstrong said there are some players that may need to "tidy up here, tidy up there" as far as minor procedures are concerned but than that, nobody is expected to miss the start of training camp in September.

* On Kostin, Bolduc -- With a recent report of there being concerns of Russian NHL players returning to their homeland for the summer that could potentially have issues returning back to North America, Armstrong said as far as he knows, Klim Kostin is the only player that went back to Russia.

The Blues have Vladimir Tarasenko, Pavel Buchnevich, Ivan Barbashev, Kostin, and Toropchenko on their roster from Russia, which is the focus internationally stemming from a war in Ukraine.

"Klim Kostin has gone back I think to get a visa," Armstrong said. "Concern might be a little strong, but it is at the forefront of your mind on what happens. You want everyone to be safe, for starters. We don't control what the government will do as far as accessing visas. In a perfect world, a guy would stay here, but it's not a perfect world and I understand people want to go home to see family that maybe they haven't seen in 12-18 to maybe 24 months."

Bolduc, the Blues' first-round pick last year (17th overall), had himself a fantastic season with the Québec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, finishing with 99 points (55 goals, 44 assists) in 65 regular-season games and 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in 12 playoff games. He joined Springfield of the American Hockey League after his junior season was completed to join the Thunderbirds in their quest for the Calder Cup but never made it into the lineup.  

"Bolduc had an injury coming out of the Quebec league playoffs and we didn't see the benefit of him pushing through that after what he had been through, the number of games that he played," Armstrong said. "But yes, he did open our eyes. We have very healthy internal debates on who our No. 1 prospect is. Is it (Jake) Neighbours or Bolduc, Boldic or Neighbours? Because they both are dynamic players, both are different players in the way they affect the game but both have a major affect on the game. 

"It's exciting to see those two players and then you don't have to look just through rose-colored glasses to envision them playing with Robert Thomas and (Jordan) Kyrou and now all of the sudden, you might have four of your top six in your team within 12-18 months moving forward. Like Robert Thomas, I think this is the last day I can say it, but I think he's still 22. I think he might turn 23 tomorrow and Kyrou's young. There's some good, skilled players in our group now with Kyrou, Thomas, Bolduc and Neighbours that maybe we haven't had in a number of years. That's a hat's off to the amateur staff."

No comments:

Post a Comment