The St. Louis Blues have some lofty expectations this season after a strong summer spending spree, but much of those hopes come down to goaltender Jake Allen. The team lost backup Carter Hutton to Buffalo in free agency and signed Chad Johnson in his wake, leaving Allen as the clear starter for this year. Bad news has already come out regarding the team’s starter though, as today they announced that Allen will miss the first 10-14 days of training camp with back spasms. Prospect Erik Foley and goaltender Luke Opilka will also be out indefinitely following a recent concussion and hip surgery respectively.
Allen, 28, took a fairly substantial step backwards last season and was part of the reason the Blues missed the playoffs entirely, registering a .906 save percentage in 59 games. That was good enough for just a 27-25-3 record, and though some of that had to do with the play in front of him the Blues need more from the goaltending position this year. In the 2016 offseason Allen was given a four-year contract extension a year before he reached free agency and already in the 2016-17 season you could tell that it may have been a bit premature. The goaltender wasn’t even included on a road trip with the team, but after changing goaltending coaches an incredible run during the second half of that season and into the playoffs turned around his numbers. Those changes didn’t last, but the Blues have made it clear that they will live and die with Allen in net.
Johnson, the other option, was one of the worst backup goaltenders in the league last season with the Buffalo Sabres, recording an .891 save percentage and a 3.55 goals against average. Though he does have some solid seasons in his past, there is little reason to believe that he could take over the Blues net for an extended period of time and get them to the playoffs. That leaves just young prospect Ville Husso if Allen struggles or deals with injury, and though he’s coming off a good season in the AHL it’s hard to expect a ton at the NHL level for the 23-year old goaltender.