The St. Louis Blues have finished one of their final few negotiations, agreeing to terms with Jake Walman. The restricted free agent defenseman will sign a two-year contract that is two-way in the first year and one-way in 2021-22. Eligible for arbitration, Walman decided not to file. CapFriendly reports that the deal is worth the league minimum in both years – $700K next season ($100K salary in the AHL) and $750K in 2021-22.
Walman, 24, made his NHL debut this year when he suited up for a game in January, playing just over 11 minutes of action in an overtime loss. That was the only action he’d see in a Blues uniform, but that doesn’t mean it will be his last.
With a new two-year deal in hand, Walman will continue to be one of the first names called up by the Blues when they face injury issues to their regulars. Unfortunately, perhaps, he is no longer waiver-exempt, meaning he’ll have to clear before going to the minors after training camp.
That is of course if there is a minor league season to go along with the NHL campaign and it becomes possible to transition players between the two leagues without quarantine periods. Walman is exactly the type of player that might be included in an NHL “taxi squad,” traveling around with the team in case of injury (or infection) despite not actually being on the roster. A distinct rule like this has not yet been announced, though some believe it could, depending on what happens with the AHL.
In the case of the Blues, for instance, the organization recently announced a partnership with the Springfield Thunderbirds of the AHL. St. Louis is expected to be part of a Central Division in the reworked NHL schedule, playing in a regional bubble of sorts with their closest geographic opponents. Springfield is not central at all, meaning travel between the two teams could be complicated and restricted if the Thunderbirds continue to play in the northeast. This is just one of the logistical problems the leagues will have to work out before hockey starts, with players like Walman greatly affected.