So let's move on to questions.
At this point, I'd say no. The Blues have so many forwards that they have to find places for, that I can't see them bringing anyone new into the fold, unless it's to fill space in San Antonio. Why pay someone who's going to block Jordan Kyrou's path? Keeping Maroon has the benefit of, as we've been saying, keeping the band together. But the Blues need to open spots for their young forwards, so giving anyone multiple millions or multiple years just gets in the way.
Never underestimate the value of a goalie in the playoffs, and as long as Dallas has Bishop, they'll be a factor and next season they might not be a wild card. The Stars are building to win now. They are not taking a long-term approach.
I asked Butler about doing broadcasting -- or maybe I was standing next to someone who asked him; I forget -- and he laughed and said No, and it was a pretty definitive no, like, I would sooner have bamboo stalks shoved up my fingernails. Now, in a year, could that change? Yes. However, he's living in Minnesota now, not St. Louis, and I think he's looking to settle down and be consistently with his family. They've had plenty of time apart in the past few years. So that would preclude him doing any broadcast work that involved traveling. Could he work with a youth team? That seems more likely.
Bortuzzo always stands at the ready if someone needs to be hit. Edmundson had two fights last year and isn't afraid to dig in. Nolan could be someone to do it, but it's going to be tough for him a) to make the 23-man roster and b) be suiting up on a regular basis. If he were to play well enough to earn a spot on the team, he'd be the guy, but I don't see them giving him a spot just so they have an enforcer.
That sounds reasonable, but there's not much separating those teams at this time, and I might put Chicago over Winnipeg now that they have a goalie in Lehner. If Colorado has a second line and Nashville has a power play, both of those teams become much bigger factors. The top five teams in the Central were separated by 10 points last season, and even Chicago briefly became relevant at the end of the season. The team that wins the Central will likely be the team that avoids a protracted slump.
By the way, I asked a question in our Road Crew chat today, which immediately precedes this one, and it wasn't answered.
Again, if the Blues dip their toes into the free agent market, it won't be for anyone making more than $2 million or wanting more than 1 year. The Blues have so many forwards backed up that bringing in someone new would just get in the way, unless it was a very special case. (Or unless they had made long-term decisions that we aren't aware of.) If they don't sign Maroon, I think their best use of that money is to hold on to it. They already have 13 forwards on one-way contracts (or who will be after their RFA deals are done), plus Robert Thomas, who doesn't figure to be going down. There are some good forwards out there, but at what the Blues are looking to spend, they're not quite as good.
Schenn has become a valuable member of the team. Can he be replaced? Yes, but right now, the team has a lot of players who fit in well together, and that's something that it's worth investing in. It took the team a while to find that chemistry last year, and once they did, it paid off. So that's a reason where slightly overpaying him, or not lowballing him, would be in their better interests. I don't know that any of the prospects in the pipeline are guys who will be stepping into a Schenn role in the near future: a forward who can play center or the wing and either score goals or make plays. He's shown he's a top six forward. And he's 27. He's got some years ahead of him.
Joel Edmundson is 26 years old and has played four seasons in the league. Jay Bouwmeester likely has one season left. Carl Gunnarsson is not a long-term answer on defense. Edmundson has many productive years ahead of him. Trading him would be very shortsighted on the Blues part, especially since his price probably came down a bit after an inconsistent season. When Jerry Buss owned the Lakers, he used to give the example of players and poker chips. Imagine a player as a stack of poker chips, and each year he plays, you take one away. The stacks are very small on Bouwmeester and Gunnarsson. Edmundson still has a big stack. You only move him for someone who gives you a lot of value in return. This is a Blues team built to win now, but Edmundson also can be a bridge to the next window after this one closes.
With the defensemen the Blues currently have, it will be tough for anyone outside the current top seven to have much of an impact, unless players start getting hurt. That said, this is hockey, and players get hurt. Reinke and Mikkola had seasons in San Antonio that will warrant a look next season and figure to be next in line, though Pouliot does bring experience, and he is from Saskatchewan. If he gets called up, it's in a Chris Butler type situation, where they won't be afraid to play him if needed and won't be afraid to scratch him. (If Reinke or Mikkola get called up, they'll be playing.) After that, it's up to him to show what he can do. But with the seven guys they've got, it will be tough to find an opening.
As Doug Armstrong said, the negotiation on Binnington won't be easy because there isn't much of a resume to go on. Much may come down to how much Binnington is willing to bet on himself. He can take a short-term deal, knowing that if he does well, when he gets to free agency, big bucks will be waiting. Or he can take a longer term deal and not have to worry about that. I have no idea what either of those deals will look like. I think with some uncertainty still about Binnington's play, the shorter-term, maybe two years, may be the way to go for both sides. If he has two great years, the Blues will gladly pay him.
I remember asking Bouwmeester about choosing to re-sign early and not go on the market and he pretty much laughed at me and said, What kind of a market would there be for me? Possibly more than he gave himself credit for, but still, he's got a point. It is a young man's game. He was going to take a pay cut anyway -- there was no way he was going to get $5.4 million -- and the $3.25 million he's getting is pretty good pay for a defenseman his age. As for Gunnarsson, he probably could have gotten more on the open market, but again, his value was going to be iffy since he was coming off an injury-plagued season and is 32. So you never know. Maybe teams would love him. It only takes one. But at the same time, if he was asking for any more than the $1.75 million he's getting, the Blues would have looked elsewhere. Again, he brings good chemistry and is well liked.
I never thought they would buy out Steen because, 1) Armstrong doesn't buy players out and 2) the team values what Steen does in ways not reflected in numbers. He's paid a lot based on the numbers he puts up, but I think the team looks beyond that. It will be interesting to see how next season plays out for him. Steen, as we've now seen, is at a point where the less he plays the better he is. But he's still a guy the team is comfortable with moving up in the order if needed. Steen is a player whose game is really well suited to the playoffs. More time off in the regular season wouldn't hurt him to keep him fresh for the postseason.
One of the main reasons Stillman could be around for a while as an owner is that selling the team isn't easy. It was tough sledding when he bought it, and I don't think there's a line of people waiting to buy it. Consider that the local owners bought the part of the team that was just up for sale. One could assume from that there wasn't someone who isn't already part of the ownership group waiting to pay more than they did to buy in. The Cup win obviously has energized everyone around the franchise, and the team no doubt made a lot of money thanks to the playoff run. So the team is probably in the best financial shape it's ever been in. I think Stillman and Co. will ride this for a while now.
I could see them getting a Stadium Series game. The league hasn't gone back to a Winter Classic site yet, and if they do, I'd bet it would be some place that seats much more than Busch does. But a Stadium Series game would be do-able.
Yeah, it does seem like asking a lot for the exact same group to do it twice in a row. But there is some competition, such as Kyrou fighting for a spot, and Blais and MacEachern and Sanford and Fabbri looking for places -- would there be anyone hungrier than Robby Fabbri? -- and the inherent competition among the seven defensemen for six spots, plus the young guys in San Antonio, and Allen fighting for a spot against Binnington. So there is some inherent competition within the organization. But how do you make change just for change? You're almost left at picking someone at random and cutting them loose to bring in someone else. That doesn't seem like an improvement. I've said a few times that one of the toughest times to be a GM has to be the year after winning a championship. How do you shake things up?
He said that one of the first things he'll do is tell them that last year doesn't matter any more. It may take a while for that message to sink in, but the Blues did very well this season looking forward and not looking backward. The key of course, is not looking too far forward. They have to focus on what's right in front of them. They did not do that at the start of the season, which is something to keep in mind. Which is another issue: If the team gets off to a bad start, do players think, no big deal, we can turn it around and we'll be fine by the time the playoffs come around? Because that can be a dangerous way to think too.