Rumors are swirling around the St. Louis Blues regarding potential signings. Given their injury problems, the team is right to look for help, but it is not so simple.
There is one thing we know for sure about the St. Louis Blues prior to the 2017-18 season. They are looking for outside help. Where that help comes from is anyone’s guess.
There are strong indicators that the team plans to bring back Scottie Upshall. He was released from his PTO contract with Vancouver and the team even tweeted that there was a meeting between the player, Doug Armstrong and Mike Yeo.
There have also been rumors of interest in Jaromir Jagr. Armstrong even responded to those rumors, which almost never happens, which has fans in a tizzy over potentially bringing in a Hall of Fame caliber player.
However, things are not so simple for the Blue Note. Their cap situation makes bringing in any players a little bit difficult right now. It is not impossible, but it is difficult.
The NHL rules are a little bit confusing as to cap relief for players that will be out entire seasons. So, it makes it hard to calculate how much room the team actually has under the cap. We will return to that in a moment.
The problem does exceed the Robby Fabbri injury though. Even if his season ending injury enables the Blues to take his salary off the books for a season, it does not give them any extra room.
Fabbri currently has a cap hit of $894,167. That’s a bargain when he is playing. It does not help in providing any wiggle room.
If the rumors are true and Upshall comes back at basically the same price (rumored to be around $800,000), then those salaries are basically a wash. That leaves the Blues in a tight squeeze.
If you look at their roster page on CapFriendly, you’ll see the Blues currently have approximately $2.2 million in cap space. Plenty of room to bring in a late signing, right? Not at all.
Closer examination shows that the Blues have that space with only 19 players listed on CapFriendly’s roster. Teams almost always have 22-23 players on their NHL roster at any one time.
Regardless of injuries, the Blues will have a hard time getting up to 23 players since their prospects and minor league guys are making around an average of $750,000. Two of those salaries equals $1.5 million and your space is almost kaput at 21 players.
Some fans will be quick to point out the Long Term Injured Reserve. That is an avenue the Blues will need to look into, but it might not provide the necessary relief or it might.
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Here is what CapFriendly‘s page has to say about LTIR:
"When a player has an injury of which they are expected to miss 10 games and 24 days, the team can place them on long term injured reserve (LTIR) to receive cap relief.When a player is placed on LTIR, their cap hit technically remains on the teams cap payroll and it continues to count as it always did. It also does not provide the club with additional cap-space savings that can be banked for future use while the team operates below the salary cap. Instead, LTIR provides relief if the club’s averaged club salary, or payroll, begins to exceed the upper limit. The amount of relief that the club receives is calculated on the day the player is placed on LTIR."
Fabbri is not coming back, so his salary is completely freed up. Steen and Berglund will be back. Do you get relief of their entire year’s salary or is is pro-rated? It is a simple formula listed on the page, but these extenuating circumstances make it harder.
It would be my understanding that you get relief of their salary in the formula for the year, but you still have to include their salary in that extra space once they return.
So, theoretically, the Blues might have enough room initially if they place enough players on LTIR. When you get Steen and Berglund back, you’re scrambling to find room again though.
Still, the possibility is enough to explore. Even if you only place Fabbri, Berglund and Zach Sanford on LTIR, your new limit could be around $78 million.
Then you get into the territory of how much the ownership can afford. We know Tom Stillman and the Blues owners want a winner, but can they afford an extra $5-6 million in payroll?
There are still a lot of questions that remains unanswered about LTIR. It seems too simple that you can place some guys on a list if they won’t miss the entire year and get relief from their salary in a manner of speaking.
Also complicating matters would be how much Jaromir Jagr would want. On one hand he has gone an entire offseason with no interest from any teams, so he might be willing to take less money. On the other hand, he might be unwilling to play for less since he has earned no less than $4 million per season since 2012-13.
From a pure production standpoint, I would be OK with bringing in the 45 year old. Even if he could only equal last year’s totals (16 G, 46 pts), that would equal what you should expect from Fabbri.
Personally, I am just not convinced the Blues have the funding or the cap space to pull it off. The Blues were more agressive, making a key trade, this offseason, but their cap flexibility remains a problem.
Right now, fitting the kids in will be an issue with roster spots open. Affording everyone and bringing in a player like Jagr will be almost unheard of. That is why GM’s get paid big bucks though. Armstrong will definitely earn his money if they can swing something like that.