Blues chat with Tom Timmermann

Blues chat with Tom Timmermann

Bring your questions and comments about the St. Louis Blues and the NHL, and talk to Post-Dispatch hockey writer Tom Timmermann in a live chat starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

    Good morning one and all, and welcome to the 11 a.m. edition of the Blues chat. Many of our other chats start at 11 a.m., but during hockey season, we can't do that because it conflicts with practice. But it's the offseason at least for the Blues, so we're going to give this is a try. So, after a two-week hiatus while Jim and I rested up, let's get going.
    Do you think Pietrangelo will be a Blue next year? If so, what terms do you think he should expect? If not, what do you see him getting in free agency?
    I used to be very unsure on Pietrangelo's return. I have routinely said 50-50 since I had absolutely no idea. I'm now actually leaning toward he'll be back. There's apparently some heavy lifting still to be done, but the exchange over the weekend, well, not really an exchange since the Blues didn't say anything, makes it clear that Pietrangelo really wants to stay. That's the only reason to come out and say what he said, to try to get the Blues to increase their offer so he'll stay. Where is that middle ground, that comfortably uncomfortable point that Doug Armstrong talks about? I don't know. 8 years, $8 million is probably the starting point. Pietrangelo wants more, and probably wants much of it in signing bonuses that are guaranteed. Figuring out a structure that works will be the other challenge once the annual average value is set. I don't know that a $9 million deal is possible in this day and age if he hits the open market. So the question will be how much more do you have to pay Pietrangelo before it's worth his while to leave? It's not a hometown discount as much as it's a convenience fee.
    Let's just get the elephant in the room out of the way. What is your take on Petro situation? And in your opinion, whenever the ink dries (wherever it may be). What/where does that contract look like?
    Roman Josi's $9.059 million deal has been the measuring stick. Can't see the Blues going over that. Hard to see any team going over it for that matter. I think 8 years and somewhere in the mid-8's is where it ends up with the Blues, though if he hits the market, it's 7 years and closer to 9 million AAV. But the one thing that remains to be seen is what the free agent market looks like and how many teams are willing to spend to the cap. The market is not what it was in January.
    Are the Blues factoring in next year's expansion draft in their moves this year?
    Armstrong has said they're worrying about now and now and about the expansion draft later. They know they're going to lose somebody they don't want to lose. But they certainly have to pay attention to it. So yes, they're factoring it in, but I don't think it's the driving force behind a lot of decisions.
    If Petro leaves, does O'Reilly become the next captain of the Blues?
    That will be an interesting decision. Steen and Tarasenko have the A's right now. The Blues could give it to Tarasenko on the notion that they want him to be the team leader. I don't know that Tarasenko would necessarily be a big fan of some of the things that go along with being a captain, such as being the designated team spokesman to come out and talk to us after a bad loss. O'Reilly has been next in line with an A, and you get leadership out of him regardless. Someone else to consider is Schenn, who is going to be here a long time and has shown a willingness to take charge on and off the ice. I could see a situation where Steen does it for one year and then it's passed on to someone else.
  • Tom! What's for lunch! also, if petro walks, do you see Army still spending to the cap? maybe picking up a scoring option?
  • With the early start, I'm munching on trail mix for the chat. I'll have lunch afterward.
    The Blues fully intend to spend to the cap, so if they don't sign Pietrangelo, they'll put that money to use, most likely on a goalscorer. They don't really need to spend it on a defenseman. 
    It appears to me the Blues want Klim Kostin will start the season since he is getting playing time in Russia. Do you agree?
    The Blues are going to need contributions from players making around the league minimum this season because of the cap situation, and Kostin is one of the leading candidates. A nine-month hiatus between the end of the AHL season and the start of the next NHL season is not something the Blues want for him, so any games he gets in Russia will be good. This is his chance this year, and the Blues will be looking for every dollar they can. In fact, even if he's not ready, he could be on the team just because of the cap situation. They may have no other choice to make the dollars work. Also, if the AHL season is delayed or doesn't exist, being on the big roster might be the only chance for him to play.
    Do we have any draft picks in our system that could possibly be a top six forward in the future besides Kostin? Seems like the Blues could have issues over the next three years with cap space if we don’t have several players on entry level contracts.
    Not in the near future. Toropchenko, Alexandrov, Laferriere are all a few years down the road at best. (Toropchenko is probably closest.) There's a little more room to maneuver after the 20-21 season when Steen and Bozak and Gunnarsson come off the books -- that's $13 million -- but other players, such as Schwartz and Binnington, will also be looking for raises. You can't make it work without low-cost young forwards. The Blues are low on those right now. Which is another thing to look for if the Blues make a trade this offseason. Can they move up on the draft order from 26?
    What player will be the cap casualty if Petro signs with the Blues? Because they will need to clear more salary to get under the cap.
    Bozak and Steen would be the obvious candidates, but it seems to be a tough sell to find someone to take either of them with their combination of age and salaries. The days of teams like Arizona taking on everyone's unwanted contracts so they could hit the NHL salary floor are over. Schwartz, who's a UFA after next season, is someone who other teams would want and open $5.3 million of cap space, which is about what you need. That's a big piece to part with, especially since what you're looking for in return is draft picks and not another player. But that's what you're looking at. 
    You can be over the cap in the offseason, so the Blues don't have to make a move before they sign Pietrangelo, though you're negotiating strength goes down when a team knows you have to make a move. Then again, everyone knows the Blues have to make a move. 
  • When it was reported that talks "broke off," what does that mean exactly? Did Armstrong slam the phone down?
    I have no idea what it means. In this sense, it probably means that the Pietrangelo camp and the Blues are talking about sums of money with no easy bridge to cross and neither side showing an inclination to move. But it's not as though they can't restart them by lifting up the phone. There's nothing keeping them from doing that. And one side or the other could have said, let's take a few days off and then try again.
    There was a recent story that David Perron could be left exposed for the expansion draft. Surely, that is not the case, right? For crying out loud, Perron is one of few bonavide snipers we have and seems love St. Louis since he keeps coming back! This Perron fan says that would be a huge mistake.
    Perron could be left exposed on the theory that with his age, there will be other better options on the Blues for Seattle to take. That's part of the gambling on the expansion draft. You want to protect your best players and your good young players, since you'd rather potentially have six more years of them than one or two more years of a good older player. It's conceivable it could come down to Sundqvist and Perron for that last spot. Who do you choose then? Sundqvist is six years younger and plays a significant role on the team. 
    Perron, I will grant you, is a player who has gotten better over the past couple years. How long that upward arc continues is one of those things the Blues will have to try to figure out. 
    If Petro signs elsewhere, what free agents do you think that the Blues might try to sign with the money that they will be saving by not re-signing Petro?
    At that point, you're looking at a forward you can get in the $4 or $5 million range. You're probably out of the Taylor Hall Sweepstakes at that point. Mike Hoffman? Tyler Toffoli? Namestnikov? So much will depend on how the free agent market goes. Do the guys at the top get paid and then it drops off after that, or do the guys at the top not get paid and the bidding war is for the guys in the middle? Doug Armstrong probably has a better idea than I do. 
    The problem is always if you're looking for a 20-goal scorer, there aren't many and they aren't cheap. The Blues paid $5 million a year for Tyler Bozak. So production comes with a price. 
    If Husso struggles backing up Binnington, what are the other options?
    The Blues are going to go on the market and sign someone with NHL experience to put at Springfield and be ready in case. There are a lot of goalies on the market this offseason, so it may be a question of seeing who doesn't land an NHL gig and going from there. But they will have a third goalie stashed and waiting in case. The next goalie in line, Joel Hofer, is probably not NHL ready yet. He appears to have passed Evan Fitzpatrick, who may also get a look. As recent history has shown, goalies peak at different times, so he may still end up in the mix.
    Hi Tom. With the signing of Jim Montgomery, do the Blues anticipate Ott or Van Ryn being coveted as HC candidates by other teams? Also who fills Bill Armstrong’s role in your opinion? Thanks
    Ott finished high in an NHLPA poll two years ago on an assistant coach who would be a good head coach. I could see him making that jump soon. The players certainly love him.
    I really don't know what direction the Blues will go in on replacing Bill Armstrong, whether they would promote from within or look outside. The more important role is going to be director of amateur scouting rather than assistant GM. The draft is becoming increasingly important because of the need for good, low-cost players. 
    It seems that the Blues did very well in the drafts when Jarmo Kekalainen was the scouting director. Do you agree with that? How do rate the Blues' scouting department now, compared to when Kekalainen ran it?
    The Blues did well with Kekalainen and they did well with Armstrong. In Armstrong's time, the Blues never picked above No. 20 in the draft, and with that pick, they got Robert Thomas. There may not have been the huge hits that Kekalainen had -- Pietrangelo, Schwartz, Tarasenko -- but the Blues had higher picks back then. The Blues have done will turning later picks -- Perunovich was 45, Kyrou 35, Dunn 56, Barbashev 33, Blais 176, Parayko 86 -- into significant contributors.
    I feel that if DA has had bad discussions regarding AP and his agents, that DA will move Schwartz because he has the same agents. Plus, it looks like Schwartz will want as much as Schenn or more. I don't feel he is as good as Schenn. So, do you trade him now or just let him play one more year and move on?
  • That's always the issue: The earlier you trade the guy, the more you get. The Blues wanted to do that with Shattenkirk. A trade of Schwartz now, when a team is assured of having him for a whole season, gets you more than a trade at the deadline. And even more than a trade after the season when you can't re-sign him. Schwartz could become a salary cap casualty for that reason.
  • What's the latest on Tarasenko's shoulder? Or with the offseason, is mum the word?
    When we talked to Armstrong last week after the Montgomery hiring, he said the surgery had gone well and five months was still the time table. So that would be February for returning to action. How much of the season he's lost at that time is anyone's guess. Could be three months, could be one month. Could be none. 
    I wouldn't envision any more Tarasenko updates until training camp gets close. The first month of shoulder rehab is slow, so around the draft and free agency, there probably won't be much to update. 
    Do you have any idea when next season will begin and end?
    I've got no idea and, as Gary Bettman said the other day, neither does anyone else. In-season bubbles seem very unlikely, and it could be a situation where the season starts with no fans, then graduates to some fans, and by the end of the season is back to normal. All of that will depend on events totally removed from hockey. At this point, it seems unlikely the season starts on Dec. 1. January seems more likely, but who's to say. One thing we don't know is how long the league can wait. NBC is broadcast the Olympics in July, so they may want the season to be over by then, or at least to not be in the playoffs then. But the league also wants to get back to some degree of normality on their schedule. So they can't wait forever.
    Thanks for the reporting over the weekend on the Petro situation. What do you pick up from him conversationally? Does he sound frustrated? Or is it totally a business-like approach? Any emotions at all, on either side?
    Pietrangelo is as business-like as they come. He stressed consistency in his message. If you want reading between the lines, I'd say this: He would like to get a deal done with the Blues. He also wants what he thinks he deserves, and if the Blues can't make that happen, he will look for that elsewhere. We're talking about a man who dabbles in real estate. He knows how these things work.
    Is there anything to report regarding Dunn's new contract? Or is that pretty much on the backburner until the Petro situation plays out?
    It may be on the front burner now if the Pietrangelo talks aren't going anywhere, just because Armstrong has more free time. It's probably not the most complicated contract the Blues have to deal with. Dunn doesn't have arbitration rights, so he'll have to take what the Blues give him. The range of his contract isn't likely to have a big impact on Pietrangelo's deal.
  • At 8 and 8. Give no cap growth are the blues better to let Peyton go?
    That is the question, isn't it? He's one of the top defensemen in the league, a two-way player who can score goals and shut down the other team's top line. He plays in all situations. He would be hard to replace. But can you live without him? Sure you can. Things would look different, Colton Parayko would have to move into an even bigger role and Justin Faulk would have to be the Justin Faulk of a couple years ago and not the Justin Faulk of last season. Niko Mikkola would have to show he's NHL ready. So you're introducing some ifs into the equation that you wouldn't have if Pietrangelo comes back. But those things aren't the toughest parlay to come down the road.
    And then the other question is, what does Pietrangelo look like at the end of the contract, when he's a 38-year-old defenseman with an $8 million cap hit. At what point does the contract become a drag? It's almost inevitable it will at some point. If it happens after five years, well, then you had five years of a really good defenseman and three years where you had something less. What's the cutoff point for you? If it helps you win another Stanley Cup along the way, was it worth it? And, as Armstrong noted I think at the Faulk signing, yes, it will cause cap problems down the road, but it's probably someone else's problem then. Nothing wrong with living for today.
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