Greetings Blues fans. We're now more than a week removed from the end of the season and, if nothing else, Colorado has shown it can make other teams look not-so-good too. I spent the morning doing non-hockey stuff, meeting with MLS Commissioner Don Garber as he passed through town to check out the stadium progress. One day there will be a soccer chat, but probably not for a couple years. In any case, hockey is my sole focus right now. So let's chat. There are already some questions waiting, so I'll dive in.
I think exposing him in the draft would be foolish, since the Blues would be getting nothing for him. (I suppose you could say it would let them keep Vince Dunn or someone else, but that doesn't seem a fair exchange.) If you want to move him, trade him so at least you get something for him. I said this on the last podcast, but I had low expectations for Tarasenko this season after such a long time off and the time it would take him to get back up to full speed. He probably came in a little low on my expectations, but not by a whole lot. I can't imagine that my expectations were that different from what the team expected. (But maybe different from what they hoped.) Anyway, giving away a guy who did pretty much what you expected doesn't make a lot of sense, especially when the expectation is it would be a stepping stone to getting better. This is about the time you would expect him to start getting better, with the games played and time since surgery. Trading him is an entirely different matter; if the deal is there, you make it. But on this team, if there is anyone who I think you can expect to make a big jump next season and score a lot more goals, it will be Tarasenko. Letting him go for nothing is not an efficient use of assets.
While past performance is no guarantee of future results, signs point that way. It was a tough spot for Krug to step into, and world events made it worse. I think it was hard for all the newcomers to fit in. It was Krug who early in the season when asked about what he would do when the pandemic was over said he'd have everyone on the team over for a barbecue so he could get to know them better. Krug's season wasn't all that bad. Lots of assists, not a lot of goals, and with Parayko's absence, he got pushed into a bit more high-pressure defensive situations than the team probably would have liked. His first season was probably better than Faulk's first season.
Right now? Possibly finishing lunch, depending on how he's set his day up. In the immediate aftermath of the season, the front office staff gets together and goes over everything, player by player, throughout the organization. Discussions are had about free agents, from Jaden Schwartz down to Mitch Reinke, about whether to keep them or let them go, and at what price they want to keep them. As teams are eliminated, GMs will reach out to other GMs who have had similar discussions with their staffs about who they may be looking to move. The expansion list is scrutinized, and the team will try to figure out what other team's lists look like to see if that sparks any ideas. So there's a lot going on. And there's an amateur draft coming up too, so the team has to assess what their needs are there. The real dead time for the GMs is right after the trade deadline.
He'd most likely go to the team that gave the Blues the best return. He's got a no-trade clause, so he'd have some say in the matter. Hard for me to say which team might value him most highly.
Seth Jones is coming off a not very good season, subpar both offensively and defensively. Hamilton will not come cheap and it would mean the Blues have an awful lot of money tied up on defense. You'd be talking $25 million for the top four D alone.
I think we need to adjust what is form for Tarasenko. The routine 30-goal seasons are likely gone. Twenty-goal seasons may become the norm for him for the duration of his contract. Maybe 25. There are worse things. Letting Schwartz, Dunn and Tarasenko all go would constitute a major makeover of the team. It's quite possible that two of those three are gone, because of how the world works. Letting them go and replacing them would seem to constitute opening a new window.
I don't know that there's been many Stanley Cup champions without outstanding goaltending. It's the kind of thing that kind of proves itself. And outstanding goaltending makes your defense look a lot better. But defense isn't always about defensemen. Forwards have to play defense too. Defense wins championships. But to get to the playoffs, scoring goals certainly helps. The Blues could have used an extra goal or two, or an extra save or two, at many points along the way.
Well, Tyler Bozak fits that bill, and you wouldn't have to worry about him relocating. There are plenty of guys out there who fit that bill and they come cheaper than goal scorers. Phillip Danault of Montreal got one of my Selke votes this season and is a free agent, but I'm not sure what his price will jump up to since he's 28 and made $3 million this season.
All depends on what the contract looks like. If the Blues can get him at the same price, or less, and it's not a long term deal, then bring him back. It may be tough for Schwartz to get a raise, since his production numbers have been so limited. The thing is, if you let him go, what does everyone say the Blues need: better D and someone who will play Berube's forechecking style and win back pucks. So the Blues would be looking for, well, Jaden Schwartz, though presumably one that doesn't get hurt as much. The hole created could be tough to fill. Again, this is the kind of thing talked about in end-of-season team meetings.
The Blues of recent years have not been built around big stars. Pietrangelo and pre-injury Tarasenko would be the only names you would see when someone put together a top 25 or more list of NHL players, and even then not always. It's a synergy thing with the Blues, where the team as a whole is better than the sum of its parts, or however that works. Schwartz and Bozak both fit the team very well, and Mike Hoffman doesn't, which is something to keep in mind entering free agency.