Hi everybody. I have dashed home from practice, plopped myself down at the dining room table, fired up the computer, and here we go. Jim is en route to Columbus for the game tonight as we speak, so you've got me again. Camp opened a week ago. We know some things. Not much, but some things. With that, let's get started.
It will be a tight fit on the roster, though Brown has one advantage over Kostin in that Kostin doesn't have to go through waivers to be sent down to the AHL, so if it was a tossup between the two, the Blues might keep Brown so they don't risk losing him. He's in the lineup tonight, so we'll get a look at him and he'll get some power play time. Berube said in the couple days he's been here, he's seen that he has good hands for a big guy. "He moves well too for his size," Berube said, "but he's got good hands. He's a high pick, so he's got good ability." How the Blues handle the final few spots on the roster will be one of the mysteries of this camp. MacEachern, Kostin, Brown, Clifford, even Neighbours, are in the mix down there.
While much of the fan base might not agree, the Blues liked Sanford and he brought some useful skills to the team. But at some point, the Blues were going to have to get under the salary cap. Sundqvist will start the season on LTIR, so they were going to be OK at the start, but they were going to have to do something when he got back. That might have taken care of itself with another injury, but it might not have and Armstrong chose to move Sanford when he had the chance rather than later. It's not about cap flexibility; it was about getting under the cap. Right now, capfriendly has them $732,000 under the cap with 13 forwards including Sundqvist.
Well, you won't lose him this season; he's under contract to the Blues. But yes, going forward, that's going to be a thing. He's an RFA after this season and could easily decide to take his game back to Russia. The Blues will have to decide whether the risk of losing someone they don't want to lose to waivers outweighs the risk of alienating Kostin. I don't think he has anything more to gain by playing in the AHL, and after all this time, he would probably not be too keen on going back to the minors. It's also the path of least resistance, and that's a road teams often choose to take.
Yes, it happened after the new agent took over.
Much of that will be determined by how much salary cap space they have available at the time. One thing, though, that the Blues have going for them is that under Neal's buyout, he's already getting paid $1.9 million by Edmonton for the next four seasons. So if the Blues paid him $1 million, he'd still be making almost $3 million, which isn't too bad. It would be tough for the Blues to go too much higher than that with their salary cap issues.
What we know about Logan Brown is he didn't live up to the expectations Ottawa had for him as the 11th pick overall in the draft. He's a big guy, and that won't change. He's been consistently good defensively and in the closest thing he's come to a full season, 2019-20, he was decent offensively too. In talking about him today, Berube kept coming back to his hands, that he has good hands for a big guy. Injuries were also a problem in Ottawa. There was a decent chance that Ottawa was going to send him back to the minors this season, and there's a decent chance the Blues do as well. This will be an important camp for him. He told me today the drive to St. Louis from Ottawa didn't seem as long as the drive from St. Louis to Ottawa a week ago. His spirits are much higher now. We'll have to see if that translates into his game.
Perunovich played in the first two games and looked pretty good for someone who hadn't played in over a year, though he did mishandle that 2 on 1 against Dallas wrong and he knew it. With his long hiatus, he will probably benefit from time in the AHL, but I think he will be high on the list for a potential callup if an injury occurs. Berube seems to be cautious when it comes to praising Perunovich, likely not wanting to create expectations. He is, as they say, tamping the brakes. A decision to keep Perunovich would mean something would happen with Walman or Mikkola, since both have to go through waivers. Walman probably has a better chance of getting through waivers than Mikkola does. And I'd put both of those guys in the category of guys who won't get more out of the AHL. Of note in camp is that Walman seems to be getting better defensive partners than Mikkola has.
Depends on the veteran, of course, but if you've got a guy who potentially has six years ahead of him and a guy that has one, I'd go with the guy who has six. Unless you thought that one player was the difference in you making a legitimate Stanley Cup run. In that case, you go all in. This will be part of the dilemma the Blues are facing: Does Neal create a big enough gain that one year of him is worth more to you than however much you get from Kostin down the road? I'm not one to say turn the team over to the kids -- I remember calls in this very chat for the Blues to do that early in 2018-19, that the season was lost and they should just activate the whole San Antonio roster -- but when you've got a one vs. one (or 1 v 1 v. 1) decision -- do you keep Clifford or MacEachern or Kostin -- I would lean young.
I haven't been alone in thinking the bigger peril for the Blues is how Tarasenko gets along with the support staff rather than his teammates. On the other hand, the training staff doesn't make nearly as much money as the players make and have a job that I think teams would not have trouble filling, so they have a very high incentive to do their job as professionally and competently as possible, despite how they may feel. And it may at times feel awkward.
Well, it's 3 for you Barry, assuming you are in Orlando at the moment
I asked Berube about this last week and he said it doesn't make any difference to him, since he calls and talks to Hitchcock regularly anyway, whether he was a consultant or not. But this is now an invitation for other members of the staff, staffers who have never met him, to talk to him. It's unclear how often Hitchcock might show up and see the team in person -- he was living in the Palm Springs area last I heard -- but he's a resource more than anything. He'll watch games, offer suggestions and be a sounding board for coaches at all levels.
Both looked good in Traverse City. Hofer will get two periods tonight, and Ellis has yet to get in a preseason game, so Hofer has the edge at the moment. Hofer is only about two months older than Ellis but has the advantage of being a year ahead professionally. Hofer will likely get an NHL chance before Ellis does, so in some ways, it's his spot to lose. The future could be very soon. Husso is blocking Hofer or Ellis but he is blocked by Binnington. Husso is a UFA after this season, so this is a contract year for him. If he plays well, maybe some team tries to make him an offer that takes him elsewhere. If that door opens, Hofer is first in line, though his play, and Ellis' this season, will determine who gets in.
I think they're good. I think he's gotten all he's going to get out of the AHL and at some point, the Blues have to see what he can do in the NHL. If he doesn't make the team, it's for a practical reason, namely that he doesn't have to go through waivers so he can be moved around easily and they don't have to risk losing someone else. Asked about him today, Berube said his play in camp had been "fine." "His shot has been noticeable, he's really shot the puck well, scoring on the goalies. The game he played, I thought he had a good third period, he was more assertive using his feet, getting on top of people. He's got to be a pretty straight line player for us, up and down, banging bodies, going to the net, using his shot, playing a simple game. He doesn't need to complicate things. He has to be a power forward in my opinion, be good around the net. We're going to use him on the PP tonight in front of the net so he'll get some looks there. So far, it's been fine."
In a perfect world, the Blues would keep Sanford over Bozak. I would keep Sanford over Bozak. But, here's one thing about salary cap math: If the Blues didn't have Bozak, they would have another player in his place making the exact same salary. Trading Bozak, not signing Bozak, saves them nothing because the guy in that spot will also be making $725,000. But, if you trade someone like Sanford who makes $2 million and replace him with someone who makes $725,000, you have reduced your cost against the cap by more than $1 million. The Blues have to get under the cap, so they needed to have a net negative in salaries. Hence, Bozak. Bozak's bonuses will count against this year's cap, but if they push the Blues over the cap, the excess will count against next year's cap. Hence the bonus heavy structure of his contract.
Sees to me the Cardinals wore Blues gear around the time of the Stanley Cup win. The Cardinals had Blues night at Busch a few weeks ago, with Schenn throwing out the first pitch. But in a streak like this for the Cardinals, unless the uniform change was already planned, nothing is changing. Superstition runs deep.
I think Walman would get through waivers, but I don't think Mikkola would. I think teams would look at a 6-5 guy like Mikkola and think he would be a nice addition. Of all the defensemen in the Blues system, the one guy that has the look of a shutdown guy like the defense of old is Mikkola. The Blues have to find out if Mikkola or Walman is a fit in the NHL or they have to move on, but they would rather move on under their control, by getting an asset in return for either one of those guys. But also, at the end of camp, when players are going through waivers by the boatload, it's easier to slip a guy through.