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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.