When the NHL’s free agency window opens next summer, few players project to be as valuable on the market as St. Louis Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly. The forward is entering the final year of a seven-year, $52.5MM deal and though he’ll be 32 years old when he hits free agency, he will in all likelihood find another fairly long-term deal somewhere near the $7.5MM AAV he currently holds. The impending free agency is also a driving force behind the Blues’ decision to extend young forwards Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou with matching eight-year, $65MM contracts now, insuring against an O’Reilly departure. Perhaps not to worry though, as O’Reilly told the media, including NHL.com’s Lou Korac, that he would like to remain with the Blues going forward and that some form of dialogue has already started. Still, the former Selke winner cautioned that he feels “no real urgency” to get a deal done right now. O’Reilly admitted that when he was a younger player, there may have been a feeling of more urgency, but now he understands that he has other things he needs to focus on first with the start of the season, and understands that Blues GM Doug Armstrong has other things to focus on right now too.
- After he sustained a left knee injury in the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, St. Louis Blues netminder Jordan Binnington is fully healed and was a full participant today as the Blues began training camp, according to NHL.com correspondent Lou Korac. The Blues will rely on Binnington heavily this season, as veteran backup Thomas Greiss had one of the worst years of his career last season (if not the worst) with a .891 save percentage and shouldn’t be relied upon for more than 25 starts.
The St. Louis Blues will be without the services of Marco Scandella for most of this season, after announcing hip surgery. Scandella will undergo the procedure later today and is set to be re-evaluated in six months. The veteran defenseman was injured in late August while training.
Six months would mean the end of March, not exactly leaving a lot of time for Scandella to get back on the ice and make an impact. Without him in place, there could now be an opening for young defenseman Scott Perunovich, who has dealt with his own injury issues and has just 43 professional games to his name.
It also means that Scandella’s $3.275MM can be moved to long-term injured reserve, giving the team a bit more cap flexibility for at least the first part of the year.
More importantly, perhaps, is how this will impact the last part of Scandella’s career. The 32-year-old is signed through the 2022-23 season but has already seen a steady decline in minutes since arriving in St. Louis, averaging just barely over 18 last season.
If a hip injury causes him to lose another step, it’s hard to see how he will stay ahead of players like Perunovich and Niko Mikkola (who happens to be a UFA next summer) in the pecking order. Hopefully, he will be able to make a full recovery and return to the steady defensive presence he has been for nearly 700 NHL games.
When the Pittsburgh Penguins signed Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to extensions this summer, they committed themselves to a “win-now” short-term competitive plan, focusing the energy and resources of their franchise into squeezing one last Stanley Cup victory out of their three franchise pillars. The face of the franchise, Sidney Crosby, has three years remaining on his current contract, and as things currently stand he’s not thinking beyond that point.
In an interview with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek for their 32 Thoughts Podcast, Crosby was asked about his playing future and whether he’d like to play into his forties as Zdeno Chara has. Crosby responded that he wouldn’t, and added on that he’s “thinking about [the] three more years” remaining on his contract before considering the next step for his career. At 35 years old, Crosby isn’t “Sid the Kid” anymore, but he did score 84 points in 69 games last year and remains an elite player. But based on these comments, the Penguins will need to consider that Crosby may not be playing for the entirety of Malkin or Letang’s new extensions.
Now, for some other notes from across the NHL:
- Vancouver Canucks GM Patrik Allvin has been a busy man this summer, signing major contracts with J.T. Miller, Ilya Mikheyev, and Andrei Kuzmenko. And despite the fact that training camps are close, he may not be done. In a conversation with The Athletic’s Thomas Drance, Allvin stated that the team would still be looking to add to its current group of players, saying that there is enough “cap space, and roster spots, and contract slots” to be able to facilitate an addition. (subscription link) We’re certainly late into the offseason free agent market, but with the preseason waiver wire set to be active and a few free agents still remaining, it’s possible that the Canucks get a new face or two into the mix before they open their 2022-23 campaign.
- The St. Louis Blues have signed some major extensions recently, specifically with their two top young players: Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. While the Blues are undoubtedly better off having signed those deals, they could come with a cost. As Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes, the byproduct of these extensions is that the team could find it difficult to match the sort of offer captain Ryan O’Reilly could receive on the open market. Since both O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko will be unrestricted free agents next summer, the Blues seem to have made retaining their two franchise pillars a more difficult task with their recent moves.
- Blues GM Doug Armstrong has acted quickly to extend Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou but don’t expect that to be the case for any other of their pending free agents. As NHL.com’s Lou Korac relays (Twitter link), the current plan is to let the season play out and then see what they can do on the extension front. Veterans Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko highlight their list of pending unrestricted free agents but with the raises for Thomas and Kyrou a year away from coming into effect, they’re going to have a hard team keeping their veteran core intact.
NHL hockey is nearly here. Rookie tournaments have started, and training camps are soon to follow. Over the next few weeks, we’ll keep track of all the notable minor signings to see where minor league and fringe players will ply their trade this season.
- The St. Louis Blues have added another player to their training camp roster, signing Russian prospect Andrei Bakanov to a PTO. Bakanov, 20, last played in North America with the Guelph Storm of the OHL in the 2019-20 season and has seen game action at the KHL and MHL levels for the past two seasons.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets are bringing goaltender Hayden Stewart to their training camp on a PTO. Stewart, 27, has been a starting netminder in the SPHL for the past few seasons and has also seen fill-in duty in the ECHL since turning pro out of Cornell University in 2018. This PTO signing is extremely unlikely to result in a contract offer from the Blue Jackets, but nonetheless, Stewart will get the chance to show what he can do as an extra body to mind the crease for the Blue Jackets’ training camp.
- Former NHL defenseman Ryan Sproul will be staying in China. The KHL’s Kunlun Red Star announced that they’d signed Sproul to a one-year extension. The former Detroit Red Wing is beginning his fourth season with the Red Star and seems to have found a long-term home with that club.
This page will be updated throughout the day.
After losing Alex Pietrangelo to free agency a couple of offseasons ago, having David Perron and Ville Husso leave the same way this offseason, and observing this summer’s Calgary Flames from afar, the St. Louis Blues made it a priority this offseason to sign young stars Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou long-term. The organization accomplished that feat on Tuesday by signing Kyrou to an eight-year, $65MM contract which will kick in during the 2023-24 season – two months to the day after Thomas signed an identical deal. Although St. Louis has several key UFAs at season’s end, including Ryan O’Reilly an Vladimir Tarasenko, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on today’s 32 Thoughts podcast that the Blues’ priority was to get their two pending RFAs signed long-term.
Despite their clear focus, Friedman believes St. Louis will take a run at re-signing O’Reilly too, seeing term as the likely sticking point for both sides, O’Reilly turning 32 in February. A comparable contract could be Nazem Kadri, as Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek suggests, given his age and style of play, but as Friedman says, “I don’t know if I can see St. Louis doing that” (Kadri signed for seven years and $49MM). Of course, with their two biggest building blocks signed long-term through their prime years, the Blues have put themselves in a good position, however it’s still worth noting the departure of two key pieces from this year’s team (Perron and Husso) and further departures of O’Reilly or Tarasenko, or both, could put a further dent in the team’s plans for it’s current build.
A few days ago it was reported that Jordan Kyrou and the St. Louis Blues were working on an extension. It appears those talks were positive, as Kyrou has signed an eight-year, $65MM extension. The deal is the same as the one that Robert Thomas signed earlier this summer, carrying an $8.125MM cap hit through the 2030-31 season.
Kyrou released a statement on the deal:
I’m so thankful to the Blues organization for putting their trust in me and giving me the opportunity to wear the Blue Note for the forseeable future. Being able to call St. Louis my home is amazing. I can’t say enough about how much I love the city. And to the best fans in the League, I can’t thank you enough for always showing me love and support.
Kyrou, 24, had a brilliant season in 2021-22, registering 27 goals and 75 points in 74 regular season games and then another seven goals in 12 playoff matches. The young winger attacks with incredible speed and finesse, registering those points despite averaging fewer than 17 minutes a night.
In fact, among players with at least 40 games played this season, Kyrou ranked 15th in the entire league in 5v5 points/60 at 2.93. That put him just behind Jonathan Huberdeau and Thomas, the latter actually tied with him. His 1.29 5v5 goals/60 tied him with Johnny Gaudreau, and Jake Guentzel for 21st in the league, showing just how dominant he was in his opportunity.
An extension like this suggests that the opportunity for Kyrou will only grow in the years to come, with more minutes being funneled to him and Thomas as the new core pieces of the offense. Notably, both Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly, veteran talents who have led the Blues for years, are scheduled for unrestricted free agency next summer. While these massive long-term deals certainly don’t rule out extensions for the older forwards, the Blues are obviously focused on their emerging stars and wanted to get them locked up as soon as possible.
Remember, the salary cap ceiling will start raising again in the years to come, meaning long-term contracts signed now may look like bargains down the road. With this extension not kicking in until Kyrou is 25, the Blues have essentially bought his entire prime.
The two young players will continue to be linked not only because of their team but also their financials so far. Kyrou and Thomas are both in the final year of identical two-year, $5.6MM bridge deals they signed in 2021, meaning their contract status will basically be identical for the better portion of their careers.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
Earlier this offseason, the St. Louis Blues locked up part of their future when they signed Robert Thomas to an eight-year, $65MM contract. The 23-year-old center exploded with 77 points in 2021-22, establishing himself as one of the best young pivots in the league. His teammate, Jordan Kyrou, may soon be getting the same treatment. Andy Strickland of Bally Sports Midwest tweets that the Blues have begun extension talks with Kyrou.
Now 24, Kyrou had his own breakout season in 2021-22, reaching 27 goals and 75 points in 74 games. He was a horse in the playoffs as well, adding seven goals in 12 games. Last year at this time, the Blues decided to go with identical two-year bridge deals for Thomas and Kyrou, contracts that carry an average annual value of just $2.8MM. It was an incredible bargain in year one and likely will give even more surplus value in 2022-23.
It will be interesting to see if another matching deal is coming, given the positional differences. While Thomas is a full-time center, Kyrou is a pure winger, something that isn’t usually quite as lucrative when it comes to long-term deals.
Importantly, the Blues have some other contracts to think about in any negotiation. Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko are both set to become unrestricted free agents next summer. General manager Doug Armstrong has been more than willing in the past to move out key pieces early if they have indicated they aren’t going to re-sign, but losing O’Reilly in particular right now seems like it would set the team back significantly. If he’s to be extended, the 31-year-old will likely be looking for a deal at least as lucrative as the $7.5MM cap hit he currently carries.
For now, if contract talks with Kyrou are going “very good,” as Strickland says, the futures of O’Reilly and Tarasenko might have to wait.
The St. Louis Blues have signed Tyler Pitlick to a professional tryout, inviting him to training camp with the team. The veteran forward spent last season with the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens but hadn’t found a contract this summer so far.
Pitlick, 30, has suited up for 325 games in the NHL but hasn’t been able to find much consistency in recent years. after setting a career-high with 14 goals and 27 points in 2017-18, he’s bounced between five different teams, and scored just one goal in 39 appearances in 2021-22. That just isn’t enough to have teams chasing him, though the Blues do offer an interesting opportunity.
We’ve seen St. Louis sign players after training camp invitations before, and Pitlick’s size and physicality do lend themselves to Craig Berube’s style. Still, it would likely take an injury (or two) for a spot to open, given how many forwards will already be fighting for roster spots. Perhaps Pitlick stands out enough to earn a deal but this may be as much a showcase for the rest of the league as anything else.
Remember, despite signing a PTO with the Blues, Pitlick is still an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any team that wants to offer him an NHL contract.