April 21 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny (26) awaits for a face-off drop across from St. Louis Blues center Vladimir Sobotka (17) in the second period at the Pepsi Center. The Avalanche defeated the Blues 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Blues Offseason Preview: A Case For Paul Stastny

For St. Louis Blues fans, patience has always had to be a strong virtue.

After all, for a franchise that has never won a Stanley Cup in its 46-year history, patience (along with a dose of optimism) is one of the only things that has kept Blues fans sane over the years.

After the Blues fell in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Quarterfinals to the Los Angeles Kings, Blues fans- once again- began the long, arduous wait until October.

During the offseason, patience must be at its strongest for Blues fans. After all, a few long weeks still remain before the NHL Entry Draft on June 28th, and the beginning of free agency on July 5th. In addition, over four months remain before the start of the regular season.

However for many fans- and understandably so- patience only goes so far. Therefore, it is no surprise that many have started talking about offseason plans for the Blues, trying to get inside the head of General Manager Doug Armstrong.

Armstrong has tantalized Blues fans already, announcing the signings of Adam Cracknell and Ian Cole. Yet, many still crave more.

Therefore, in the coming weeks leading up to the draft and free agency, I will attempt to fill the void with an offseason preview of sorts.

While I can’t attempt to predict what moves Armstrong will make this offseason, I will highlight potential free agent and trade candidates that could help fill holes on the Blues roster.

In this first installment, I make a case for bringing Paul Stastny home to wear the Blue Note.

Stastny has had a very successful career in the NHL thus far for the Colorado Avalanche.

The 27-year-old center has topped 70 points three times in his seven-year career, something that only Andy McDonald has accomplished currently on the Blues roster.

However, a pending unrestricted free agent, McDonald is injury prone and past his prime. Consequently, few expect the Blues to bring McDonald back next season.

The Blues are in desperate need of scoring this offseason, something that their playoff series against the Kings made brutally evident.

Many believe that a first-line playmaking center is the missing piece to the puzzle to aid the Blues scoring woes.

Paul Stastny definitely falls under the category of a playmaking center. However, is he still a still a first-line center?

There is no denying his recent drop off in points the past few years. Since putting up a career high 79 points in 2009-2010, Stasny’s point production has dropped off the past three years with 57, 53 and 24 (in a lockout shortened season) points respectively.

Is this the sign of a player in decline? Possibly.

An alternative explanation for Stastny’s point decline is that he has played on, at best, a middling team and, at worst, a horrible team in the Avalanche.

Recent evidence helps corroborate the latter explanation.

During the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship, Stastny lead Team USA to a Bronze Medal posting a team high 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists) in only 10 games.

That type of production supports the notion that Stastny is still more than capable of handling the role of a team’s #1 center.

However, since Stastny still has a year left on his contract, the Blues would most likely have to acquire him via a trade.

With a cap hit of $6.6 million dollars, the Avalanche may look to shed Stastny’s contract. The Avalanche already have center Ryan O’Reilly under contract next year ($5.0 million) and have raises due to center Matt Duchene and young captain Gabriel Landeskog looming in the distance next offseason.

Considering the Blues perceived financial issues, Armstrong may be wary of taking on Stastny’s contract, especially considering the hefty list of free agents he has to deal with within the organization.

Additionally, the asking price for Stastny would have to be lowered significantly if Armstrong was even open to taking on his contract.

However, there is another way that Stastny could end up on the Blues roster this October.

As part of the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement, NHL teams are allowed to buyout the contracts of two players without it counting towards the salary cap.

Given this, Stastny could be a potential buyout candidate if no trade partner can be found. If this is the case, Stastny would become an unrestricted free agent.

This scenario would favor the Blues for two reasons:

First, Stastny’s price would go down immensely. Due to his recent decline in production, he would be forced to take a pay cut on the open market.

Second, one would have to believe that there would be a mutual attraction between Stastny and the Blues.

Stastny spent much of his childhood in St. Louis after his father, Peter Stastny, finished his career playing with the Blues. He and his brother, Yan Stastny, attended Chaminade College Preparatory School in the St. Louis area.

Depending on whether Stastny’s contract is bought out or not will play a role in the level of interest the Blues have in him.

However, if Stastny does end up on the Blues roster come October, there is a good chance he would return to being the first-line center he has been for much of his career, rejuvenated by playing in front of his “hometown crowd.”

What is your opinion? Is Stastny a good fit for the St. Louis Blues?

Let us know in the comments section below.

Tags: Doug Armstrong Paul Stastny St. Louis Blues

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