Blues Putting Contracts on Hold...For Now
Winners of their last five, St. Louis appears to be getting their game in order at the right time. At the very least they're feeling much better about themselves.
With a day off I figured now would be a good time to look ahead. Still with so many pending free agents, people around the NHL are curious what the core of this team will look like a year from now.
Blues GM Doug Armstrong has elected to put contracts on hold for the time being. He has a number of core players due for extensions following this season including prized D-men Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk.
The list continues from there with forwards Chris Stewart and Patrik Berglund each eyeing considerable raises. The market has been set internally with recent extensions given to Captain David Backes, David Perron, and T.J. Oshie each signing 4-5 year deals in the range of $20 million. Perron’s deal totaled just over $15 million with the last two seasons paying him north of $4 million per.
Berglund, coming off a two-year bridge contract, has topped 15 goals in each of his five NHL seasons scoring at least 19 three times and 20 twice.
For the most part Stewart has put together a strong season but will it be enough to get the Blues to commit long-term dollars? He does have arbitration rights if either he or the team chooses to go down this road. He has a decent resume when you include his entire body of work.
Shattenkirk also has arbitration rights, something Pietrangelo does not. At the very least it gives the Connecticut native some leverage Pietrangelo doesn’t have entering negotiations.
Looking at the comps Shattenkirk is a $4-$5.5 million arbitration case.
With just two points in his last 14 games, Shattenkirk’s statistics have taken a hit since he and Barret Jackman were split up. With the addition of Jay Bouwmeester, Shattenkirk has been relegated to the third pair alongside Jordan Leopold. Jackman and Roman Polak are seeing top four even strength minutes as they form a shutdown tandem under Ken Hitchcock who likes hard matchups.
Personally I see Shattenkirk as a legitimate top four NHL D-man and putting him back with Jackman is an option the coaching staff could entertain moving forward. Don’t forget Shattenkirk led all NHL d-men in scoring half way through the season.
Polak and Leopold would create a solid 5/6 moving into the playoffs. Not to mention Kris Russell who proved last spring he can play in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Shattenkirk is seeing less ice time with the Blues top offensive players which not only affects him but also the Blues ability to play the up tempo transition game we’ve seen in the past.
Shattenkirk in my opinion might be the Blues best D-man when it comes to jumping in transition as well as distributing the puck in the offensive end. He’s shown the ability to run a power play at a very high level.
He might not be as strong of an all around D-man as Pietrangelo but he certainly brings a skillset to the ice that makes the Blues better.
Pietrangelo has come on as of late registering a plus-6 in his last five games. There’s no question he’s benefitting from the acquisition of Jay Bouwmeester even though the point production hasn’t been there.
Pietrangelo’s game is more than points but is still counted on to produce from the back end. He began the season with 12 points in the first 13 games but has just eight in his last 24.
Some wonder how much the pending contract is weighing on his shoulders? It’s only natural especially for a young player just finishing his third full NHL season. In fairness Pietrangelo got off to a relatively slow start last season before really turning it on the last 40 games.
Many had him pegged to be in the Norris Trophy discussion and snatch a Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson type contract after this season. You have to wonder if the Blues have something else in mind.
There’s no doubt the Blues view Pietrangelo as a franchise D-man, the question is are they ready to pay him like one? A strong showing in the playoffs will only help his cause.
Pietrangelo has the excuse of not having a stable partner much of this season but how valid will that be come negotiation time?
Even with the addition of Bouwmeester, Pietrangelo remains the Blues best defender. One thing we do know, the new CBA doesn’t provide NHL teams any relief with second contracts.
Others such as Ian Cole, Kris Russell, and Jake Allen also see their contracts expire at the end of this season. The Blues haven’t turned the page of Russell or Cole.
Then there’s Andy McDonald who at 35 can still play but is unlikely to sign a deal with the Blues paying him his current $4 million-plus salary. Would either side entertain him staying at a smaller price tag?
Armstrong is an experienced GM and has a number of assets to toy with this summer. He won’t be lacking options come the NHL draft in June.
Elliott Shows Professionalism…
Speaking of assets Armstrong has three in goal when you add Jaro Halak and Allen to the mix.
I had a long conversation with Elliott a few weeks back when he was watching the majority of the games in the pressbox. I asked him how he was handling being pushed aside by the younger Jake Allen. He told me didn’t hold anything against the younger goaltender, in fact he was helping set up drills for Allen every day in practice. Elliott tells me he’s been is Allen’s shoes before and would never make like difficult or awkward for a younger player.
Did he like the situation? Of course not, but with a shortened season comes a reality. This season is all about winning and NHL clubs don’t have the luxury of allowing goalies to play through their struggles.
There was never any drama between Elliott and the club which says a lot about who this guy is. I don’t get the sense the Blues looked to trade Elliott as much as some might think. Hitchcock and Armstrong knew if they kept all three they would get solid play from one of them. None of these goalies are being paid too much to where the Blues felt forced to make a move.
Elliott didn’t have to stand on his head in his 15 save shutout performance in Nashville Tuesday night but with each start he’s earning another one.
Stats are sporadic all over the NHL especially when comparing them to last season’s numbers.
Blues Buzz airs tonight live from Johnny Mac’s beginning at 6:00. Former NHL D-man Rick Zombo will be my guest. The show can be heard on am 590 the Fan.
More to come,
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