Greetings and welcome back for our last chat of training camp, but not our last camp before the season starts for the Blues, since their season opener is still 10 days away. Jim has, by now, I think landed at MSP having flown up from DFW for tonight's game. In a perfect world, prior to the game, some of the Blues would sit down with some of the Wild for a game of euchre, in which case both the Cardinals and Blues could have a Wild card game tonight. But I digress. Let's go to the questions.
Will it make you feel any better if he makes the roster but doesn't play much? That may be where we're headed. That fourth line is going to be a grab bag, with lots of players in the mix for it. That's where the intrigue is in camp right now. Clifford, MacEachern, Kostin, Joshua, Brown, are all in that mix. There's a decent chance Clifford gets through waivers, but if he gets picked, that's not the worst thing. I think the Blues would rather risk losing him than a lot of younger players. But on the other hand, teams like having veteran presences around like Clifford.
Neighbours and Perunovich are the obvious candidates there, and the fact they're still in camp says the management feels the same way. McGing looked good, and Laferriere is one to watch. There are a lot fewer options on the defensive end, but Tyler Tucker is in line for a callup this season if the Blues need to go deeper into the Springfield roster.
At the beginning of camp, I thought Binnington was a goalie coming off two fairly average seasons. Really good at some times, but not all the time. That's pretty much my feeling now. He has had some good games in camp. Everyone is speaking highly of how he's played. But it's still the preseason, and a long season lies ahead. When we see how he looks in the season, then I may adjust my thoughts. His play in the preseason bodes well.
The past few years, the Blues have played on the first day of the season. It's going to be a long wait this time. On a personal note, seven days of off-day stories is a lot of off-day stories. We'll be tested.
First, the game is Friday. I think you'll see something close to opening day. The Calle Rosens of the world will be sent back to Springfield for their camp. Neighbours and Perunovich will likely get in that game. With a week in between that game and the start of the season, that lessens the injury situation. If it were a road game, they might call some AHLers in, but for a home game, I would expect most of the veterans to play.
I don't know why the gap. They're probably the last team to start, but I haven't looked at all the schedules. Minnesota doesn't start until next Friday. Vegas plays two games, then has five days off. So there's weirdness all around. Not sure if the league was looking for more wiggle room at the start of the season in case things happened.
There's a solid case for him making the team. I think he would benefit from playing some games in the AHL just to get into the pace of pro hockey after a long time off, Tonight will be his fifth preseason game out of seven, so the team obviously likes what they see and wants to see more. And if he does make the team, there's a solid case for trading Bortuzzo and keeping the younger Mikkola and Walman. As a capable veteran with a smallish contract that has one more year to go, he should get some interest.
No apology needed. But thanks.
At this point, I think he is around for a while, because an in-season trade for a contract that big is just tough to do. And probably the only way he doesn't finish the season is if the Blues fall apart and are out of the playoff picture and he gets traded at the deadline. But if things are going well, if the Blues are winning and Tarasenko is healthy and scoring, I see little incentive for the Blues to trade him.
Right now, the Blues top nine is really a top eight: Saad, O'Reilly, Perron, Buchnevich, Schenn, Tarasenko, Thomas, Kyrou. In those lines I wrote a few answers back, I had a blank spot for left wing on one of them. If the Blues don't sign Neal, who goes there at the start of the season? Barbashev? After that, what's the next option? Every other forward on the team projects, at least to me at this moment, as a fourth liner. Yes, it will look better when Sundqvist gets back. But right now the only competition for a top nine spot looks to be whether or not Neal makes the team. At even-strength last season, Bozak's expected goals was 9 percent below the league average. Again, how much of that was the product of his concussion troubles? He's been below the league average in expected goals each of the past three seasons. His value now is totally as a defensive forward.
From what Armstrong has said, he did not find any offers that were to his liking. If there was one, there's every reason to think Tarasenko would have been traded, but as I've said going back to the end of last season, the market for a player making $7.5 million and coming off two shoulder surgeries is going to be pretty limited. But Armstrong does know Tarasenko. He's known him his whole NHL career, and his not taking an offer he didn't like was the knowledge of how he thought Tarasenko would perform.
I think Mikkola is a better fit for the defense, especially a unit with a lot of aggressive, puck-moving defensemen. If the Blues needed to score a goal, Walman would be the guy. If they needed to stop a goal, Mikkola is the guy. Don't know that Walman's game has taken a step back but the Blues told Mikkola to work on getting stronger in the offseason and they liked how he looked coming back into camp. So he's being rewarded for that.
For the first few weeks of the season, it goes in reverse order of last season's standings. Then it converts to reverse order of this year's standings. If multiple teams put in a claim on a player, the team higher in line gets the player.
As a former first-round pick, Brown certainly projects as a top-nine guy. Berube has praised him as having very good hands for a big man. In the closest thing he had to a full season in Ottawa, he never got above third-line minutes. There is clearly a big upside to Brown, if the Blues can untap that. I think because of that, it's going to be risky to send him down, because other teams will feel that way too. That was something the Blues had to consider when trading for him. Either they figured he would make the team or they figured he would get through waivers. Or maybe both. I don't know.