The St. Louis Blues wasted no time in their attempts to keep the band together from their Stanley Cup run. Just when everyone was certain he was gone, the Blues re-signed Carl Gunnarsson.
The St. Louis Blues may have to start referring to 2019 as the year of surprises. Nobody expected the Blues to win the Stanley Cup, so that was surprise enough. However, they are starting their offseason with a few surprises too.
Firstly, though it is unconfirmed until the Blues release a training camp roster, there is the surprise of likely keeping Jake Allen. Many fans assumed he would be gone because he would want an opportunity to start elsewhere and his salary would be too high for a backup.
Doug Armstrong doubled down on the surprising moves by re-signing Carl Gunnarsson. Just when everyone assumed Gunnarsson was on his way out of town, the Swedish defenseman decided to stick around.
Maybe Gunnarsson was too comfortable to leave St. Louis. Perhaps he wanted another chance to win and felt the Blues gave him the best option for that.
Or, perhaps we overestimated the interest in Gunnarsson. All are possible and it could be a mix of any of the above too. That’s what makes this so interesting.
As an example of never getting too far ahead of yourself, I was literally in the process of writing an article about the free agent defenders the Blues should be interested in. It just seemed like someone out there would be willing to give Gunnarsson a two or three year deal worth significantly more money than he will receive here.
According to the team website, Gunnarsson will be paid around $1.75 million per season. That just seems so low. Not based on our own evaluation, but based on the interest that seemed to be out there.
There were never any substantiated reports about this team or that team, but there was chatter from reliable sources. One of the main names that popped out was the Washington Capitals.
If a team not far removed from a Cup of their own was showing interest, the thought was there would be several teams. The more teams, the higher the price, so some thought Gunnarsson might get as much as $3 million per season.
Nobody would have faulted him for leaving. He won the big prize so go cash in for, potentially, your last contract.
Instead, Gunnarsson takes a second straight paycut to remain with the Blues. When traded here, he was getting $3.15 million. The Blues talked him down to a $2.9 million contract after that. Getting a Stanley Cup champion, even an aging one, to shave $1 million off their last deal is impressive by Armstrong.
The length of the deal is surprising too. I figured Gunnarsson would look for something in the two to three year range. Couple that with more money, so we thought, elsewhere and he’s out the door. Instead, the Blues offer a low money deal for two years.
It makes sense for the player. You would think he might want even more security, but if his priority was keeping his family in St. Louis, there was no way the team could or should offer a third year.
However, it is a little surprising the Blues would offer that second year. While some are saying Niko Mikkola and Jake Walman are at least a year away, you do have to create room for them or others eventually.
Yes, you will probably be free of Jay Bouwmeester after 2020, but Alex Pietrangelo will also be a free agent that summer. Vince Dunn will be a restricted free agent and a decision will have to be made about Jordan Schmaltz.
Where will Gunnarsson be penciled in? It is hard to imagine Dunn, Bouwmeester and Joel Edmundson not being the three starters from the left side. It is great to have veteran depth, but you do need to move on eventually.
Clearly, Armstrong did not feel today was the day to move on. Now, the Blues only have one true unrestricted free agent and that’s Pat Maroon. The other two are likely to walk from the team or the game.
It is not a bad move at all. It just seemed like such a given Gunnarsson would not be back that it turned out to be a shocker.