While the St. Louis Blues were able to advance to the Western Conference Final, they still fell short of getting to the Stanley Cup Final, instead falling to San Jose in the third round. Now, they will retool their roster in an effort to take that next step.
One area they have already made some considerable changes in is behind the bench. Assistant coaches Kirk Muller and Brad Shaw opted to decline one year extension offers; Muller has already signed a multi-year deal in Montreal. Yesterday, the Blues replaced them with Mike Yeo and Rick Wilson. With head coach Ken Hitchcock set to retire following 2016-17, Yeo will take his place as the bench boss at that time.
As for their player personnel, here is a closer look at their free agent outlook.
Key Restricted Free Agent: W Jaden Schwartz – Big things were expected of Schwartz this past season but missed nearly four months with an ankle injury that held him to just 33 regular season games. He managed to put up 22 points but that was still off his point-per-game average of 0.84 from 2014-15. Schwartz was a bigger factor in the Blues’ playoff run, tying for third in team scoring with 14 points in 20 games. He’s coming off his bridge deal and is due a qualifying offer of $2.7MM. It’s expected that GM Doug Armstrong will be seeking a long-term deal to keep him in the fold.
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: Team captain David Backes has been one of St. Louis’ more consistent producers over the last few seasons, scoring at least 20 goals in each of the last five full NHL campaigns while tying Schwartz for third in postseason points. He’s also one of the rare ‘power centers’ in the NHL and is going to get a long-term, big money contract.
Troy Brouwer was acquired last offseason to bring more grit to the lineup and he delivered not only that but some secondary scoring as well, picking up 39 points in 82 regular season games while adding eight goals in the playoffs, good for second best on the team. Power forwards are always in high demand on the market and Brouwer will be no exception.
One other player to watch for this offseason is C Vladimir Sobotka. He was awarded a $2.725MM salary in 2014 from an arbitrator but opted to play in the KHL instead. Sobotka is reportedly considering coming back across the pond to rejoin the Blues and if he does, will receive the salary he was awarded two years ago; he must play out that contract before being eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Projected Cap Space: St. Louis has just over $12MM in cap space according to Cap Friendly. However, they still have a minimum of five forwards to get under contract which will make it difficult to retain Backes or Brouwer without freeing up some salary via trade beforehand.