NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and analysis for each of the League’s 32 teams from Aug. 8-Sept. 8. On Sept. 2, the St. Louis Blues were featured
The St. Louis Blues posed one of the greater challenges to the Colorado Avalanche in their run to the Stanley Cup championship last season, in the Western Conference Second Round.
That’s a primary reason the Blues believe their Cup window remains open despite making minimal changes to their roster.
“We played a good Colorado team and could never get over the hump, but I thought they played well and played with character,” General Manager Doug Armstrong said after the Blues lost in six games. “Obviously regular season, playoff disappointment is what it is, there’s only going to be one champion. We know that we have to improve.
“What I look at is we’re the team that’s there year in, year out, and that’s our focus moving forward.”
The Blues (49-22-11) finished third in the Central Division last season and defeated the Minnesota Wild in six games in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs before losing to the Avalanche. They were third in the NHL in goals (309), 11th in goals-against (239) and the only team to rank in the top five on the power play (second, 27.0 percent) and penalty kill (fifth, 84.1 percent).
The Blues replaced Assistant Coach Jim Montgomery, who was hired as coach of the Boston Bruins on July 1, with Craig MacTavish and added forward Noel Acciari and backup goalie Thomas Greiss. They lost forwards David Perron (Detroit Red Wings) and Dakota Joshua (Vancouver Canucks) in free agency and traded goalie Ville Husso to the Red Wings.
Forward Tyler Bozak remains unsigned.
“It doesn’t need major tweaking,” Armstrong said of the roster. “In a cap system, we’re in a really good spot for next season. We have so many returning players under contract.”
Among them are forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko, each entering the final season of his contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent. Also, it’s evident the Blues are pivoting in the direction of a youth movement, led by 23-year-old forward Robert Thomaswho signed an eight-year, $65 million extension ($8.125 million average annual value) July 13, the richest contract in Blues history, after scoring 77 points (20 goals, 57 assists) in 72 games.
“Obviously we look at him as the centerpiece of our organization moving forward,” Armstrong said. “You look at his point total as a 22-year-old, I think it might have been the most points by any 22 or under player in the league last year, if not very close. It reminds me quite a bit actually of signing [Alex] Pietrangelo and Tarasenko, both coming off their age 22 [seasons], we signed them to long-term deals. We felt they were cornerstone players, and we feel that’s Robert.
“Everybody assumes risk when you do it like this. We talked about that. Our hope is the expectation his game continues to grow, and that’s his too, but there’s also a sense that that’s a lot of money and he’s got security.”
Forward Jordan Kyrou, who Armstrong said he’d work on next to sign a long-term extension heading into his free agent season, is among the younger pieces the Blues will build around. The 24-year-old had 75 points (27 goals, 48 assists) in 74 games last season.
“They’re becoming more and more the alpha males and the game is trending towards that,” Armstrong said of Thomas and Kyrou. “I think Kyrou, you saw what he did last year, needs to be a top player for us, to be a top franchise player. The question might be well, why Robert before Jordan, like the old analogy, like how do you get the horses back in the barn? One at a time, so we got one horse back in the barn and now we’ll go to work.”
The Blues did address their need for experienced defensemen when they re-signed 31-year-old Nick Leddy to a four-year, $16 million contract ($4 million AAV) July 13, giving them a top four that includes Colton Parayko, Justin Faulk and Torey Krug.
Leddy was acquired from the Red Wings with defenseman Luke Witkowski for forward Oskar Sundqvist, defenseman Jake Walman and a 2023 second-round pick before the NHL Trade Deadline last season.
“I think the comfort factor was there right away,” Leddy said after signing. “That’s the goal every year obviously [is] to be a contender. You look up and down on this roster, you have a lot of skill on the ice and a lot of hardworking guys. Off the ice, a lot of great people.”