Join Blues beat writer Tom Timmermann for his live chat at 1 p.m. Wednesday

Join Blues beat writer Tom Timmermann for his live chat at 1 p.m. Wednesday

Get your questions ready and join in at 1 p.m. Wednesday for our weekly Blues chat.

    Greetings one and all. It's another chat as we wait for something -- anything -- to happen. Not much new, but if you've got questions I'm here for you.
    Hi Tom! Happy Wednesday to you. I've asked a couple questions on this but you are the expert so I'll go with another one. Do you think since the Blues aren't having a development camp, that's why they went with the eight preseason games? Maybe it's so the coaches can see the young kids play more? Because it seemed like teams had the option of how many games they can choose and the Blues were one of few going with eight. Thanks!
    If they are connected, it's reason 98 out of 99. Last time they had a development camp, I think Laferriere was the only guy the last time around who was in the development camp and got in a game. Armstrong has preferred to have more preseason games, especially in seasons with a lot of turnover. It's one of the reasons the Blues have twice played in that Kraft Hockeyville game in the past several years. It's a free game for them. I think this is going to be a training camp with not a whole lot of competition for spots. The big issue will be getting a team together with new pieces or new combinations. And yes, you do need help to play more games since there has to be someone to play the game against.
    Are you confident that the Blues are going to be deep enough down the middle in order to compete hard and well in their division
    If Schenn is playing center, then you're looking at O'Reilly, Schenn, Thomas, Barbashev/Sundqvist as your centers. That's a good set, and if Thomas graduates up to the top two, then you can move Schenn to the wing. The Blues managed last season to run out of centers at times with all the injuries. So they've got five ready to go this season, with Joshua waiting in the wings if anything happens again. So center should be solid. Though Schenn has to up his game. Which leads to the next question ...
    Hi Tom. If I had to choose one player that can lift us to a long run in the playoffs this year it would be Brayden Schenn. Do you think Schenn can discover his 2019 mojo? Thanks
    Schenn's 2018-19 season was exceptional. It was really really really good, one that like Binnington's will be tough to match. Looking at some expected goals numbers, 19-20 was way down for him and 2021 was more in line with a normal season for him. So the 18-19 season may color our view of Schenn. Still, I think he can move back in that direction, not all the way, but in that direction. Early last season he looked pretty good, then hit an extended slump. So we've seen he can do it, now he just needs more of it. Playing like the Stanley Cup season may be a reach, but he can get closer to that. And as much as anyone besides Binnington, how Schenn does will determine how the team does because he's in the middle of a lot of things.
    Greetings from the Toronto area. With the Jets, Canucks, Senators, Maple Leafs, Blue Jays and 7 of the 9 Canadian Football League teams requiring proof of vaccination or a recent negative test before entering the arena/stadium, are the Blues or any other US-based NHL team looking to implement similar measures?
    The Blues haven't said yet what they'll do. They went to 50 percent attendance last season with no restrictions whatever that I recall. And with the situation changing frequently, I can see them waiting until they have to before making a decision on that. The Cardinals aren't requiring anything, though they have the advantage of being outside. Some college football teams are starting to require vaccinations or tests but I don't know that any American indoor sport has set out a plan yet.
    Hey Tom - Looking back I was surprised to see that O'Reilly has never been a 30 goal scorer in his career (although last year he was on track if it would have been a full season). With Tarasenko likely out, it looks like we may not have a 30 goal scorer on the roster at all this year. Is it possible for a team to win a cup without that type of player?
    The Blues won the Stanley Cup with Tarasenko scoring 33 and O'Reilly scoring 28. And the Blues would have made the playoffs if Tarasenko had scored three less goals in the regular season. So it can be done. Now, this year's Blues team probably isn't going to have a 30-goal scorer, but they're also probably not going to win the Stanley Cup either. (Being in the same division as Colorado is a significant road block.)  I would expect to see a lot of players clustered in a tight area for the Blues scoring lead this season.
    If (when) Tarasenko departs, what is Army looking for? Another defensive player with size or are we to the point where the return is going to be diminished due to health uncertainty and it's more important to simply move him out? Thanks.
    Cap space is the main thing. First, let me clarify something from last week that someone pointed out to me. A team can only retain 50 percent of a player's salary in a trade, so the most of Tarasenko's $7.5 million the Blues can retain in a trade is $3.75 million. So that's something to keep in mind in all this. Armstrong would love it if the other team took all or most of Tarasenko's salary. I doubt that will happen for reasons we've discussed here before. If the Blues got any player back, it probably would be a player not making a lot of money, probably less than $2 million. Again, it would be great for the Blues if that was a player who could contribute somehow, and defense would be the place since the forward position is fairly full at the moment. Draft picks are a likely return. One thing we've seen this summer is that increasingly, trades aren't even. Teams are accepting a lot less in return in exchange for the cap space, which is a prime commodity now. A right-side defender is the one obvious gap in the Blues roster. I'm less sold on the size of the defenseman than others.
    Hi Tom. Personally I think Buchnevich and Saad are two very solid pickups this offseason. How would you grade Armstrong’s summer?
    His summer's not over until we see what happens to Tarasenko. I agree that Buchnevich and Saad are solid pickups. I like them a lot. The Dunn loss was inevitable considering the circumstances, and Schwartz to me was a coin flip on trying to keep. So Armstrong is leaning toward a good grade, but it's still incomplete at this moment.
    Will Perron's next contract be more in line of the last one ($4 million / year) or will he be due a pay raise?
    I don't know that at age 34 Perron will be getting a raise. His current contract is the biggest of his career. But who knows? If his scoring totals go up this season, maybe he does get more money. I could see him getting a two-year deal at about the same money. If he continues to defy time and scores more goals, a raise would be warranted. To get more goals, he's going to have to improve his five-on-five game. He was great on the power play last season, probably the best guy on the team, but his five-on-five numbers were below par. If he ups that, he'll deserve a raise. But again, at his age, hard to see the Blues going to far out on a contract in terms of years.
    Have tarasenko or his agents indicated what he plans to do if not traded? Does he show up at camp or hold out?
  • Not that I've seen or heard, but if he doesn't show up at camp, he won't be getting paid and I don't think holding out gains him anything. Armstrong is a motivated seller in this case. If Tarasenko wants a trade, the thing that helps his cause the most, I would think, is being a team player and proving that his shoulder is, in fact, not an issue.
    Who are the Blues top prospects? Any that could surprise us and make the jump this year to the NHL?
    The top prospects, Mikkola, Walman, Kostin, have all graduated to the big club. If you still consider Kostin, who has limited NHL time a prospect, he's the guy. If you don't, then the closest one to making the jump is Scott Perunovich, though injuries kept him out all of last season so he's got some catching up to do. After a season in the KHL, Toropchenko could warrant a look. It would probably take a bunch of injuries for Tyler Tucker to get a look, but he did join the team at the very end of last season and showed well in camp. The best prospects in the system are the goalies, Hofer and Ellis, though neither are NHL ready and need at least a year of seasoning in the minors.
    2 questions about our depth, first if we have 2 injuries at center before Sunquist is back who's next on the depth chart after Dakota & Sanford? Second are the Blue's really comfortable with Santini playing a bunch of games when Bortuzzo gets hurt (like he does every year)?
    They've got some depth guys down at Springfield who would be next in line if they had to go eight deep at center; who it was would depend on how they were playing at that time. Presumably it would take them a little bit of time to have that many injuries.
    The Blues were quite pleased with how Santini played in his limited time last season. He got a lot more minutes than they have normally given players in that situation. (For instance, Derrick Pouliot.) I wouldn't want to go a whole season with him back there, but he can fill in in a pinch. If the Blues go out and acquire a better right-side defenseman, they'll likely have to move Mikkola or Walman in the process since the two aren't waiver-exempt any more and could be lost when being sent down. 
    What are you looking for from Kostin? Is this a make or break year for him or will he be on the Utica express all year?
    If not now, when for Kostin? He's had three fairly full AHL seasons and a full KHL season. It's also the last season of his contract, so the Blues have to figure out what they've got there. He has little left to learn in the AHL, though he's still waiver exempt, so that makes sending him down an option that other players don't have. (And it's the Springfield Express this season as the AHL gets back to normal.) I think he'll make the team out of camp and probably be in the regular lineup. He will get his chance this season. Don't know that he'll get above the third line this season. They'll be looking at him to get in front of the net and make things happen.
    Hindsight is always 20/20, and no one in their right mind would have told you to do this at the time. But looking back, would it have made more sense to sell high on the cup winning team? Get maximum returns for guys like Tarasenko, OReilly, Schenn, Petro, etc. instead of letting the team naturally fall apart like we have? 3 years later we're left with only a few of those championship players, and looking like a borderline playoff team without anything to get excited about in the immediate future.
    I think it takes a very brave GM to tear apart a team that just won the Stanley Cup. Moving the captain, Pietrangelo, would have been the boldest move ever by a GM. As hard as it is for a team to repeat, the Blues' best chance in the past few years to win a Cup was probably 2019-20. After all, it was a team that had won the Cup the year before. It was, by definition, a team that had what it takes to win the Stanley Cup. And they had the second best record in the league when the world stopped. While they would have gotten maximum value on those guys, you'd be putting a very different team on the ice, one that you would have no idea as to whether it was remotely good enough to contend. That's just a very tough sell, especially if you're trying to sell tickets. What's that ad campaign look like?
    With all that said, hindsight also says that teams should probably make some moves after winning the Stanley Cup. When I covered SLU, Jim Crews was named the national coach of the year in the season he filled in for the ailing Majerus. When SLU had to make a decision after that season about what to do, they re-hired Crews, which history says wasn't the best move. But that also would have been a very bold move to say we're not keeping the national coach of the year. 
    When you say, "A team can only retain 50 percent of a player's salary in a trade, so the most of Tarasenko's $7.5 million the Blues can retain in a trade is $3.75 million," are you implying that, even if they could, there is any world in which the Blues would retain more of Tarasenko's salary than that? To me, it's crazy to even consider retaining half of Tarasenko's salary unless there's a serious return coming the other way. Let's just examine a couple of scenarios.

    A) The Blues do not trade Tarasenko, he is healthy put plays poorly and drags the entire team down and they miss the playoffs. The Blues could buy Tarasenko out next offseason, which would reduce his cap hit to $3.8M for 22-23 (virtually identical to retaining half his salary) and cost the team $1.8M in cap space for 23-24. (Buyout calculations via Cap Friendly.)

    B) The Blues trade Tarasenko for late round picks or longshot prospects and retain half his salary. His performance is no longer relevant to the analysis. You have gotten no return (other than the immediate cap space) and you are still on the hook for the same cap hit in 22-23 as scenario A, but you have saved $1.8M in cap space in 23-24.

    Scenario A is worse than B, but A is really a worst case scenario. There's a lot of other possible scenarios that could unfold if you keep Tarasenko that are much better. I understand you would get an additional 3.75 in cap space this year, but what are you going to do with it? The farm system is very soft at this point. Do you want to exacerbate that problem even further by making another deal like the one for Buchnevic? With all respect to Bozak, there's no FA left who's going to make a difference on this team.

    My point is, if Tarasenko really has no trade value, then you should just keep him because you can buy him out after next year at a reasonable cost. To borrow from baseball terminology, do not trade him for a player to be named later while keeping half of his cap hit just to get rid of him.
    A valid analysis. One of the issues at trading Tarasenko is who is going to want him at $7.5 million per year? The answer is probably no one. If so, he would have been traded by now. I have maintained since the end of last season when we first started talking about this possibility that Tarasenko has more value to the Blues than he does any other team, which was a strong case for him to stay. It would be a risky move for any team to acquire him, with the combination of his cap hit and his health. I don't think he's going to be a 30-goal scorer again, but he could be a 20-plus goal scorer. 
    So it makes lots of sense to keep Tarasenko, but we now know he doesn't want to be here. So now his value to the Blues is less. Can they let him wear an A after he's asked to be traded? Seems like a strange person to be on the leadership team. So at what price point is he appealing to another team. $3.75 million? $4 million? $5 million? How big a distraction is he on the team? Can he mend the bridges? Maybe he can. 
    I was going to say salary cap space is worth more than you think, but that sounds funny. Still cap space is a plus, even if not used this year. Creating cap space gives you options, even after free agency is over. The best case scenario, at least among realistic choice, is the Blues trade him and only have to retain a couple million dollars. But I don't know how possible that is. 
    Thanks for the chat Tom! With the level of privacy the NHL provides its players, how much exposure do you and other reporters get to the players in the offseason? Wondering if you are able get a gauge on things like how Kyrou is developing his size/strength, or how Parayko is recovering from his ailments from last year?
    Very little. In part, that's because the guys who are in town and skating are doing it on their own time, as it were, and so the team has to keep a hands-off policy. Also, I'm not sure if they'd even allow us in the rink at the moment. Historically, in the final weeks before camp, when guys are skating three or four days a week, we can go in and see them skate, but that was in simpler, pre-pandemic times. Right now, there would be no access anyway to talk to them. Armstrong has said Parayko has looked good when he's seen him around the rink. Don't know about Kyrou. We'll find out soon though.
    I think the Red Wings would be a nice landing spot for Tarasenko. They have piles of cap space which appeals to the Blues, Yzerman has the team moving in the right direction, which could appeal to Tarasenko and the Red Wings are thin at RW and could afford to take a chance on him returning to form. Good idea, or not?
    The Red Wings haven't traded for him, so they don't apparently see it that way. The Blues would welcome a team to step up in that situation. And best of all for the Blues, it's a team in the East.
    Happy Hump Day Tom. THANK YOU for the chat.

    Did I read correctly in an article from you or Jim (written by two non-pouting newspaper writers) that when the Blues signed the Russian from the Rangers Tarasenko sent him a text welcoming him to the Blues? If true it sounds like the hatchet has been buried.
    Buchnevich said when we talked to him a few days after the trade that among the players to reach out to him was Tarasenko. He didn't specifically say what Tarasenko said to him. Maybe it was to recommend a Realtor. You can read all sorts of things into that. I was surprised when he said that. It's a stretch to say the hatchet has been buried, but it could mean he's considering he could be around. It's also possible he thought it may just be rude not to reach out to a fellow Russian coming to town.
    Where is the P-D keeping Jim Thomas? He hasn't had a chat in a month nor written many articles. Is Jim okay healthwise? Not that you are chopped liver, Thahks for the chat.
  • Jim puts in a lot of hours during the season, so he makes up for it by taking a lot of hours off in the offseason. He is fine.
    Hi Tom. Hoping to squeeze in one more question and you don't get too tired of me! LOL. There's been the rumors of the Blues seeking Scott Mayfield from the Islanders if they send Tarasenko there. That's obviously if a trade is made. It seems since they're seeking a right shot defenseman, do you think maybe they turn to a veteran on PTO basis and maybe then sign? I know cap space is an issue and a lot of this depends on Tarasenko, though.
    I don't know that any of the unsigned free agents out there would make an impact and be worth having in on a PTO. If they can't make a trade for someone, they will utilize Mikkola and Walman.
    Tarasenko will have a career year in 2021-22. It appears Vladi will be around come training camp and beyond, there's nothing like a chip on the shoulder to prove you still have it to your teammates and other NHL teams. Maybe Vladi has grown up a bit during the summer and has put his pouting days behind him? I for one am rooting for him. We all make mistakes.
    by Barry - Blues Fan Sweating in Orlando 8/25/2021 7:57:15 PM
    Tarasenko has had a 40-goal season, so a career year would be asking an awful lot. Again, I think he could have a 20-goal plus season. I think 30 would be really pushing it.
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