St. Louis Blues: Drafting A Team Is Harder Than We Think

Oct 22, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; St. Louis Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (4) skates against Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 22, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; St. Louis Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (4) skates against Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Blues might have some unenviable contracts hampering them in the open market. When it comes to the NHL Expansion Draft though, they might be in a good position.

The St. Louis Blues have done themselves no favors with some of the deals they have given out. Despite what many think, the contracts given out were fair at the time. Players have just not lived up to them.

Surprisingly, the thing that is holding the team back in the open market is favoring the Blues in regards to the expansion draft. People might be wondering what that is. Essentially, they have enough guys signed to the right length contracts that the Blues have many more options on who to protect.

So, basically when it is a slow news day or week, we have to rack our brains with something to discuss. Thus, in my boredom, I went through the trouble of drafting my own Las Vegas franchise.

Members of the video game generation love to do fantasy drafts. Whether it is playing fantasy hockey or wanting to load up the Blues with some sort of dream team on the most recent EA Sports NHL game, those fans always think it is easy.

You should be able to make trades at the drop of a hat. GM’s should be fired for not getting deals done, as though there is only one person trying to better their team.

The reality is that making these decisions is hard. Trying to figure out who to protect on every NHL team and then who to draft for Las Vegas was no simple task.

From the current NHL team’s perspective, and thus the Blues perspective, you have to protect either eight skaters and a goaltender or seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender. On top of that, the there are other requirements.  A certain number of players left unprotected must be guys under contract who have served a certain amount of time/games in the NHL.

That’s where the Blues have actually helped themselves. Doug Armstrong has planned for the future enough to have guys locked up to longer deals. In this one instance, that helps.  He can more freely protect those he wants to and leave those he does not unprotected without consequence.

When protecting my Blues team, the hardest decision was whether to protect David Perron or Ryan Reaves. I protected Perron.

The thinking is that a reasonable contract on a guy that could possibly net 15-20 goals is better than a feisty fourth-liner who is two years older. There’s really no wrong answer, but scoring is an issue with the Blues and losing it for nothing is not a net gain.

Other teams are not so lucky. Due to the restrictions, at least the ones placed on the user by CapFriendly, there are some pretty important players that will be exposed.

Whether they are taken is not the point. Guys like Sami Vatanen or Cam Fowler, Matt Moulson, Troy Brouwer, Elias Lindholm, Carl Soderberg, Darren Helm, Matt Dumba or Tomas Plekanec could all be exposed.

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That’s not to say they will be. When protecting players, I valued RFA’s and guys locked up long term as opposed to shorter term, aging guys. If you do your own draft, you can make the decisions.  The restrictions remain the same as to how many must be exposed that are still under contract. You can’t just leave all your unrestricted free agents out there.

Drafting the team is just as hard, because nobody really knows what Vegas wants yet. Do they want young players? Do they want a mix?

Will they try to be a fast team or a bruising one? Do they want young players already locked up or will they go after more free agent types to keep space open once the free agent market really opens up?

For my Vegas team, I loaded up on defense and goaltending. Scoring will be more of an issue with my main forwards being either veterans or tweener players like Travis Zajac or Mats Zuccarello.

That’s another thing that becomes interesting for Vegas. Do you want to draft yourself close to the cap?  Would you rather draft inexpensive pieces and try to splurge in the open market?

The latter decision is much more risky, but could be more rewarding with the return. Again, it boils down to what the real Vegas wants.

From the Blues, I took Carl Gunnarsson. Not so much because I wanted him, but he has a reasonable contract and is a steady player. Jori Lehtera has more upside, but a heftier price tag. Reaves is a possibility, but I could not wrap my own brain around taking a fourth-line player no matter how much grit they bring.

If you have the time (it took me about an hour), I suggest you try it. It will show you what you value, or at least are forced to value within the rules.

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It is much harder than you would think too. Many teams are going to have to make difficult decisions regarding aging stars or guys that just crossed the threshold of needing to be protected.

The Blues actually have it easy. With a certain percentage for error, we can pretty well lay out who is going to get exposed.  It will almost certainly not be Jay Bouwmeester by the way.