The St. Louis Blues are happy to be advancing to the second round of the playoffs, that much is certain. However, their series win over the Minnesota Wild is not without complications. Veteran center Tyler Bozak earned a $100K bonus with the Blues advancing, CapFriendly reports, which for many teams would not be an issue. However, St. Louis operated so close to the salary cap’s upper limit this season that they had no cushion for performances bonuses they had promised to Bozak and were already in the red. In fact, even before Bozak’s latest bonus was earned the Blues held the third-highest bonus overage penalty for 2022-23 at $1MM, awarded to Bozak for playing in 41+ games this season.
And they’re not out of the woods yet. Again, St. Louis would be nothing but ecstatic if they were to upset the Colorado Avalanche and earn a berth in the Western Conference Final. However, another series win would add an additional $150K bonus to Bozak’s pay check. This would bring the Blues’ total overage penalty to a league-high $1.25MM.
Bozak’s contract, signed late in the offseason, was the Blues’ attempt to fit a serviceable player under the salary cap. As a 35+ player, Bozak was eligible for performance bonuses and was willing to sign for the minimum $750K base salary, all that would be counted against the cap this season, knowing that another $1.25MM could be on the way in bonuses. The Blues were well aware of the implications, but did themselves few favors by not finding other ways to accumulate cap space this season to leave space to absorb those bonus dollars.
Now, St. Louis heads into an offseason in which they had very little cap flexibility as is and will have to manage an additional $1.1-1.25 deficit to their allowable spending. The Blues have over $70MM committed to 15 one-way contracts in 2022-23, leaving just $12.375MM to spread among the additional eight players needed to build a full roster. Except, that value is without taking the bonus overage into account, bringing their real cap flexibility down to $11.125-11.275MM. Two players the team would desperately like to bring back are veteran forward David Perron, who led the team in scoring last season, and breakout goaltender Ville Husso, who won the starting job for much of this season with considerably better play than starter Jordan Binnington. Without making considerable changes elsewhere on the roster, it doesn’t seem possible for both to return and maybe not either.