The St Louis Blues had a heartbreaking end to their season falling in the Conference Finals to the San Jose Sharks, but ultimately couldn’t be too upset with how things turned out. After finally knocking off the Blackhawks in an unforgettable first round series, they held off the barrage of the Stars in another seven-game nail-biter. While they ran out of steam and couldn’t advance to the Stanley Cup Final, it was a pretty successful season overall.
|Goals For||Goals Against||Wins||Goal Differential||5v5 GF%||5v5 CF%||5v5 PDO||PK%|
Building on years and years of “maybe this is the year”, the Blues had just their second season ever with 10 or more wins in the playoffs (their franchise record of 11 was set in 1985-86.) Still looking for their first win in the Stanley Cup Final (they were swept three consecutive times from 1967-69, their only three appearances,), St. Louis finished amongst the top four in the NHL’s regular season standings since 1999-00, when they won the President’s Trophy, and had their longest playoff run since 2001, where they fell to the Colorado Avalanche.
The team’s embraced Vladimir Tarasenko as their star player, and rightfully so. However, they’ve got a number of other young gems to celebrate as well.
— Carolyn Wilke (@Classlicity) June 18, 2016
Smart drafting and asset management put this team in a position to contend, and even if the team’s been unable to fully accomplish all of their goals, the 10th youngest roster in the NHL doesn’t necessarily see their “window” closing any time soon.
From Paul Stastny to Alex Steen to Jaden Schwartz to Robby Fabbri, this team’s stacked with all sorts of offensive talent in different stages of their career.
Talent-wise and performance wise, their defence is one of the tops in the league. The Blues allowed 27.8 shots per 60 minutes last year at 5on5, good enough for 9th in the NHL.
The Blues already went for their big offseason splash last year with the Paul Stastny signing, and don’t have tons of space for next season ($13.8 million), with 17 players already under contract.
Luckily, they don’t really have too many RFAs to commit to either for this season (just three in Jaden Scwhwartz, Anders Nilsson and Magnus Paajarvi, so they should be able to be creative enough on the UFA market to replace their four departing forwards.
David Backes is the captain of the Blues for now, but after his lowest point total in a full NHL season since 2008 and at the age of 32, he’s willing to test out the UFA market instead of sticking with the team he’s spent his entire career. Even though he’s still an effective NHLer, he’s largely in the process of being replaced with players like Fabbri, who put up 18 goals and 19 assists in his first NHL season in limited ice time.
Signing Jaden Schwartz to an RFA deal would also appear to be a priority, as he’s just one season removed from a 28-goal season at the age of 22. Injuries forced him out for much of the season, but his 14 points in 20 playoff games show he’s still a very effective producer and a big part of this team’s future.
Shattenkirk has been flying around in rumours all season long. It makes sense from a pure “get value for a potentially departing asset” perspective, but he’s been a quality NHL defenceman for his entire time in a Blues uniform and it wouldn’t make tons of sense to mess with one of the league’s top defensive units when the team’s at the level where they’re likely to be Stanley Cup contenders heading into next season.
They’ll have to sign some depth players, but instead of trying to replace Backes, perhaps they should replace his ice time with Fabbri and look at strengthening their bottom-six.
No big moves might be the best approach for this team, who easily could’ve been in the Stanley Cup final had another game or two gone their way.
St. Louis should be able to remain competitive for next season with a very similar roster and staff in place. The 2017 offseason will provide to be more interesting with five UFA contracts and two RFA deals, but for right now, the Blues might be best to just ride it out with what they’ve got – as it’s been working out so far.