When it comes to icing a competitive roster each season, it’s hard to count out the St. Louis Blues and General Manager Doug Armstrong, and in theory, the same should hold true for 2022-23. However, Armstrong and the Blues do have a tricky task ahead of them this offseason: try to re-sign, or replace, four key UFAs this offseason, while re-signing two regular RFAs. Earlier today, The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford, who covers the Blues, provided updates on the status of the four impending UFAs (subscription required).
On veteran forward David Perron, Rutherford writes that the two sides are not close to an agreement, but nothing has changed in the two sides’ desire for a reunion. Rutherford points out an interesting fact, though perhaps an unfortunate one for Perron: he has signed five multi-year deals in his NHL career, and played for five NHL teams, but all five of those contracts were signed with St. Louis. Now 34, with 15 NHL seasons and a Stanley Cup on his resume, Perron will likely be in search of stability and while he has, and ultimately has not, had that in St. Louis, it would be foreseeable that he could ask for some sort of tight no-movement clause, however those have been a key sticking point in Armstrong’s negotiations in the past. When asked, Armstrong did not disclose the status of the negotiations, but Rutherford adds a source close to the negotiations informed him that the offer is likely two-years at an AAV much lower than Perron would like.
Breakout goaltender Ville Husso, after just his second NHL season, is set to hit the UFA market and as Rutherford writes, is probably not returning to St. Louis. Rutherford adds that Husso and the Blues are going to begin some sort of dialogue shortly, however the team may be priced out of re-signing him, with The Athletic forecasting a $4.1MM AAV for the 27-year-old. That figure is technically within the Blues’ range given their cap space, but given Jordan Binnington’s rebound performance and the emergence of young goaltender Joel Hofer in the AHL, St. Louis may ultimately be better-off focusing their cap space to address needs, rather than perhaps creating a logjam in net.
Nick Leddy’s value on the open market seems to be a popular debate topic, and rightfully so. A young Leddy compiled several strong seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks before being traded to the New York Islanders, having another excellent season ahead of a seven-year, $38.5MM extension on Long Island. The defenseman had several down years before reviving his career as a steady defenseman who excelled in transition under Barry Trotz, but was traded to the Detroit Red Wings in the summer of 2021 to alleviate cap concerns for the Islanders. Leddy struggled in Detroit, but was again dealt, landing with the Blues where he appeared to return to form.
His struggles in Detroit appear to have taken a toll on his value, with The Athletic projecting just a $1.7MM salary next season, Rutherford chalking that up to Leddy’s time in Detroit, adding that Leddy is seeking a four or five year deal at around $5MM per season. Whether or not he hits his goal, that price-tag may prove too expensive for the Blues, Rutherford adding that a discount, rooted in comfort playing for the Blues, would be what it takes to keep Leddy in the fold most likely, though that is not expected.
Lastly, Rutherford touches on Tyler Bozak, who had signed a one-year, incentive-laden $750K contract for the 2021-22 season. Bozak has seen more limited time and production since coming to St. Louis as compared to his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, however his ability to play a complete 200 foot game combined with his on and off-ice leadership, has made him a much-appreciated asset for St. Louis. Still, Rutherford says that while Bozak may be had on a similar contract for next season, a return is unlikely given the emergence of forward Alexey Toropchenko, re-signing Logan Brown, and a full-time debut of Jake Neighbours.
At $9MM in cap space, St. Louis is going to be forced to make tough decisions, and must also consider two RFAs this summer in defensemen Niko Mikkola and Scott Perunovich. Further, all of this goes without mentioning their 2023 free agent class that they have to be mindful of, which includes the likes of Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas on the RFA side and Ivan Barbashev, Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko on the UFA side.