The St. Louis Blues have had a busy morning, announcing contract extensions with two players. Robert Bortuzzo has inked a new two-year deal that will keep him under contract through the 2023-24 season and carries an average annual value of $950K. Meanwhile, Logan Brown has re-upped for one more year at $750K, the league minimum.
It wasn’t all good news though. The team has also moved Scott Perunovich to injured reserve with an upper-body injury, recalling Dakota Joshua to take his roster spot.
Bortuzzo, 32, has been with the Blues since 2015 when he was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins and has been a loyal soldier in the years since. Never confused for a top-four option, he’s averaged just over 14 minutes over his 341 games with the Blues and recorded just 46 points. Still, that kind of reliable depth on defense is incredibly important, especially when it comes with size–Bortuzzo stands 6’4″ 216-lbs–and physicality. The big defenseman played in 17 games for the Blues in their 2019 Stanley Cup run, actually scoring two goals including a game-winner against the San Jose Sharks.
A two-year deal may normally come with a little risk for a player like him, the $950K cap hit effectively eliminates any. Bortuzzo could be buried in the minor leagues if the Blues run into any cap issues and the two-year term would likely actually help him clear waivers if it was necessary. All this means is that the team’s sixth or seventh defenseman will be a reliable one with nearly 500 games of NHL experience.
Brown meanwhile is in a very different situation. The 23-year-old has just 47 games at the NHL level, 17 of those coming with the Blues since they acquired him from the Ottawa Senators at the beginning of the season. The 6’6″ forward was selected 11th overall in 2016 but has never been able to translate his mix of size and skill to the NHL. There are some signs that is perhaps changing, as he gets a few regular minutes with St. Louis but there is still no guarantee he becomes a reliable full-time member of the lineup.
The win here for Brown is that the contract is one-way, meaning he’ll earn that $750K no matter which league he plays in. To this point in his career he had only been on two-way contracts, and with the amount of time he has spent in the minor leagues, this $750K deal should appear like a windfall. He also gets to play at home, given he’s a St. Louis native that played minor hockey in the area before going to the OHL.
For the Blues, this is just another bet that it will all click for Brown and some insurance for next year as they approach the salary cap ceiling once again. If he can establish himself as a regular, the team can only benefit from having a player on a league-minimum contract in the lineup. If he can’t, it’ll be waivers again, where his cap hit can be buried in the minor leagues.