Blues chat with Jeremy Rutherford

Bring your questions about the Blues and the NHL, and talk to Post-Dispatch hockey writer Jeremy Rutherford in a live chat starting at 1 p.m. Friday.




  • Here we go hockey fans, one hour of whatever you want to talk about. There hasn't been a ton of news lately, but enough and we can always speculate, which a lot of you like to do. So let's get chattin ...
  • JR, do you think the blues will sign any more free agents? I wouldn't be completely opposed to signing someone like Vanek. Thanks!
  • I think they're done, but as soon as I say that they'll re-sign Scottie Upshall. As we've reported, they have about $8.6 million in cap space and certainly most of that will be consumed by Colton Parayko. They've got plenty of forwards on one-way contracts, so I don't think they need to add. But if they decide they still need a vet in the bottom six, they might re-visit Upshall. As far as I've seen he hasn't signed anywhere; somebody help me if he has. But bottom line, Armstrong thinks they'll now stay inside the organization and let the competition play out.
  • Is there even a remote chance the blues sign Jagr?
  • I don't see it. He can still play and they certainly aren't stacked on the right side. But they want to play faster and that's the reason Florida didn't bring him back. With Jagr, the hands and the skill are there, but the legs aren't. Plus, let's say Parayko signs for $5.8 million AAV, leaving $2.8 in cap room. That's not enough to sign Jagr and stay five percent below the cap as Army wants to do. It doesn't make sense for multiple reasons.
  • Hey JR, do you think we'll re-sign Stastny after this year? Even if he took $5M, we still need to get Fabbri & Edmubson locked up next year, and I can't see how they'd make it work unless they move Bouw or someone else. Thank you as always.
  • There's a chance they bring Stastny back, but something Army said recently caught the attention of me and some others. He was talking about the Blues' payroll and said there was some money coming off the books next year. Well, let's look at who's potentially coming off: Stastny, Brodziak, Paajarvi and Hutton. I don't think the last three make enough money to warrant the phrase "money coming off the books." So we don't know he was talking about Stastny, but with a $7 million salary, even taking less money, it would seem that's who he was referring to.
  • Is Stastny interested in remaining in St. Louis? Does he get along well with Yeo? Any chance of a hometown discount or short-term extension? Thank you!
  • Yes Stastny likes St. Louis and like most of the players (if not all of them), he gets along with Yeo. So this would still seem like a good fit for Stastny after next season, but it's obviously not going to be at $7 million per. He isn't going to make that anywhere. We all know that he hit the market at the perfect time when he was the top skilled forward available and it was the perfect storm in St. Louis because they could get him to come here and they had the money. Would he take $5 million AAV on his next deal from the Blues? I don't know. Could he get more elsewhere? I don't know. We'll see. But if he comes back, it's going to have to have to be much cheaper to make it work and allow the Blues to still go out and get a No. 1 center.
  • Odds that a Parayko deal gets done before an arbitration hearing?
  • I hate backing myself into a corner, but I'm going to say 100 percent. They've been talking, both sides want to get a deal done, they know about what it's going to cost and they just have to find a middle ground. A longer-term deal would probably be best for both the Blues and Parayko and they're not going to get that in arbitration, which can only yield a one- or two-year extension.
  • Do you feel the Blues have improved, maintained, or declined this offseason?
  • I think they've improved slightly, but follow me for a minute because I'm looking at it from all aspects. Brayden Schenn is not a savior but he's better than Jori Lehtera. I think that swap makes you better. The return of Robby Fabbri makes you better. I count him because they didn't have him the last 30 regular-season games or the playoffs. I think, however, you lose a bit with the Reaves for Thorburn swap. I know they didn't trade Reaves for Thorburn, but I'm saying that Thorburn is taking his spot. That's not as significant as some of the other moves because we're talking about a fourth-line player who may log 6-8 minutes, but I think the Blues will miss Reaves a bit. That doesn't mean I wouldn't have made the deal. As I've mentioned in recent chats, I would have made it 10 out of 10 times. The pick they got in the Reaves-to-Pittsburgh, Klim Kostin, has a lot of potential and I think the ceiling for that outweighs the loss of Reaves this year. So we could get into some other aspects of their offseason that spells out whether they've improved or declined, but I think that gives us a glance at it, and to me there's a slight improvement.
  • In your opinion, does Walman make opening day roster?
  • Walman has a good chance, but it comes down to ... I think the Blues like Gunnarsson-Bortuzzo as the third pair going into the season and Walman is going to have to play better in camp than Gunnarsson (which is possible) to make the roster. They could make him the seventh defenseman, but why, he's got to be playing regularly. Also, Bortuzzo may not be playing every night, and if he's not, they'll want the righty Schmaltz as the seventh guy. Let's not talk about Vince Dunn, who has a ton of upside as well and you could argue did more at a higher level than the other two last year. I know he didn't play in St. Louis, but he was tremendous with the Wolves, so I'm just saying I wouldn't forget about him. But back to Walman, based on what we saw at prospect camp, if he comes in and plays that way, the Blues are going to have a decision on their hands and I wouldn't be surprised if he makes the roster. But he's got to be playing or it doesn't make sense.
  • I know there has been some negativity regarding Schenn's 5 on 5 goals (I think 8 last season total). How can the Blues help bump that number up?
  • I don't know if they can do anything specifically to increase the number. But the fact that he's playing center and there's a chance he could be playing with Tarasenko, that should create some opportunity for more 5 on 5 production. I'm not saying all that is going to happen, as we've all heard and read the criticism of Schenn's 5 on 5 play from Philly fans who also don't think he can be a top-six center. That understand, let's allow him to get into training camp and get some ice time with some of his new teammates and see what's possible. Other than that, I don't think there's really anything the Blues can do to assure he scores 15 5 on 5 goals next year. He's going to have to play with tenacity, which Craig Berube who coached him with the Flyers said make him the most effective. The Blues can try to draw that out of him on a regular basis, but other than that, it's up to him.
  • Are you expecting one of the forward prospects to get a significant amount of NHL games this year? Mainly thinking about Thompson or Kyrou.
  • I don't see it. To me, Thompson needs more time in the AHL and there's still a chance that Kyrou goes back to junior.
  • We are going to have a guy in Gunnarsson making 2.9 mil in our bottom defensive pairing and on top of that we are not even sure his spot is secured... Couldn't the Blues have found some team desperate for defensive depth willing to take that contract on? To me his salary does not offset his performance/upside.
  • In today's NHL, $2.9 million is not a lot. You're getting a veteran D in Gunnarsson, who may not be ideal in most fans' eyes, but to the Blues who represents a fairly stable guy on the blueline who can help hold down the fort until guys like Walman and Dunn are ready on the left side. If that's this year, great. But you don't want to deal a guy like Gunnarsson and then find out Walman and Dunn can't hold their own yet. Defense is a tough position, as you know, and those two haven't played one game in the NHL. And that doesn't even mention the fact that with injuries, you can never have enough defensemen. So you trade Gunnarsson and then Walman gets hurt, and then what do you have. Hey, if everybody stays healthy and those two outplay Gunnarsson, then we've got a debate. But I wouldn't move a guy like Gunnarsson because he makes $2.9 million, it's really not a lot.
  • Regarding Stastny,next year don't you think we have enough depth with young guys who play center?
  • Well, Schenn is not a No. 1 center and is not great on faceoffs. After him, leaving Stastny out of the equation, you have Berglund and Sobotka and neither are No. 1s. After them, you have Sanford, Barbashev, Sundqvist and none are proven. And after that you have Brodziak. So there might be some depth there as far as potential with Sanford, Barbashev and Sundqvist, but it's not proven. I get some of the criticism of Stastny not putting up points, but he wins faceoffs and his defensive game is good. To me, if you're moving on from him, you better have a plan in place because I'm not banking on the young guys I listed until I see more.
  • Who do you think starts out as our #2 center behind Stastny? Schenn or Fabbri?
  • I'll say Schenn. I know they're going to give Fabbri a look in camp, but Schenn's played the position in the NHL and Fabbri hasn't, so until they get on the ice, I've got to go with the guy who's done it. Now, that doesn't mean it couldn't change quickly. Schenn has played a lot on the wing, and Yeo really likes the idea of Fabbri's speed in the middle. It could be a simple swap of the two players without affecting anybody else. But in July, who knows how they're going to look in September, so we've got to wait.
  • True or false, Blues are still one piece away from being a cup contender?
  • I think they're in the group of contenders, but are they a true, true contender ... where you could poll experts around the league and say give me your top five teams to win the Cup next year? To me, there's a big difference in being in a group of 8-10 that COULD win and being in the group of five that most people think WILL win it. I don't think they're in the true contender category and I don't think they're just one piece away either. If you could put a No. 1 center on this team, maybe they rise to that level in some people's mind. But we're still talking about a team with a third and fourth line that we don't know what they will look like next years. We're talking about a third-pair defense that includes two guys that were healthy scratches last year. There are still question marks in my mind that wouldn't be solved with a No. 1 center.
  • What color are the numbers on the away jerseys?!?!?!
  • I attended the recent 2017 Blues' Prospect Camp at the Mills Outlet Mall and came away extremely impressed with Klim Kostin even though he was limited to participating in drills only and not contact scrimmages. He's big, strong and has a terrific attitude (from what I have read) that he wants to succeed and make a difference. It also doesn't hurt that he plays right wing! He could be a real sleeper to make this roster out of training camp. Perhaps this is why Doug Armstrong has stated that that he wants to fill holes through competition rather than trade. Your thoughts?
  • Kostin was impressive, but in addressing your question, here's the thing: Can Kostin contribute in 2018-19? Nobody can tell you that and, hand on the fire, you'd have to say no because he hasn't played much on the small ice surface and he's coming off a significant injury. So to me, Army isn't counting on Kostin for next season when he decides not to add an established player to the group up front. He's counting on the Beau Bennett's and Sanford's and Barbashev's, etc. If Kostin impresses and you can add him to that group, great. But they're not penciling Kostin in at No. 2-3 on the RW depth chart going into the season.
  • How are the Scottrade renovations coming? Have you had a chance to see any of it in person?
  • I have not seen anything in person, only what I've watched on the Blues' website and read. It sounds like the upgrades are going to be nice, and the plan is on schedule, so I'll look forward to walking into the rink when it's ready. And by ready, if anybody in the Scottrade Center crew is reading this, I mean a plush executive leather chair stationed in the pressbox next to the name card "JEREMY RUTHERFORD, POST-DISPATCH."
  • I have read recently that the AHL has agreed to add a 31st team to the league beginning next season. This means that the Blues will have a team in the AHL controlled by them. The question to you is then - In what city will be the Blues' new AHL team?
  • The Blues will have minor-league affiliate in 2018-19, as we can now confirm based on the release by the American Hockey League Thursday saying that it will expand by one team next season. As I've been reporting, I believe the Blues will be aligned with an existing AHL franchise next year and another NHL team will take over the expansion AHL franchise. I'm not at liberty to say which team will be the Blues' new affiliate, but I think we'll have some news in the not-too-distant future.
  • Hey JR---Happy Friday, thanks for doing the chats and congrats to Panger! Two-part Question: 1) How do you rank the off-season so far for the Central (team by team) as far as who's improved the most? 2) As things sit today, what's your prediction for overall finish in the Central for 2017-18?
  • Which Central teams had the best offseason? 1. Dallas 2. Nashville 3. Blues 4. Winnipeg 5. Minnesota (creating cap space) 6. Chicago 7. Colorado
  • My July guess at how the Central Division will shake out in 2017-18: 1. Nashville 2. Chicago 3. Blues 4. Dallas 5. Minnesota 6. Winnipeg 7. Colorado
  • Do you know what the Blues’ plans are for Luke Opilka this season? He’s 20 so AHL eligible but they already have Husso and Binnington to find spots for (and Vegas has 2 minor league goalies as well). Do you see Opilka staying in Jrs because of that?
  • There's a good chance, yes, that Opilka will remain in juniors. If that happens, that's a very disappointing situation because is an ideal world, Husso and Opilka would be the Blues' tandem with their AHL affiliate. But the Blues are not living in an ideal world right now with their minor-league situation.
  • Do you think the Reaves trade would have still happened if Kostin wasn't still available?
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