The St. Louis Blues have plenty of decisions to make regarding their 2020-21 roster. Keeping themselves strong up the middle needs to be a priority.
The St. Louis Blues have serious options in front of them as they make determinations about their 2020-21 roster. Even though they only have three free agents left, one unrestricted and two restricted, there are plenty of names that might not be on next seasons’ team.
One of the options that has made its way through the rumor mill has the Blues trading either Jake Allen or Tyler Bozak, and perhaps both. We have already discussed how Allen might be gone one way or another, but the Blues should consider keeping Bozak.
Of course, keeping Bozak likely means the team would have to buy out Alex Steen (assuming they keep Alex Pietrangelo). The Blues have yet to utilize the buy-out feature and doing that to long-tenured Steen seems unlikely.
Nevertheless, there are reasons to keep Bozak. Some of that has to do with price.
$750,000 might not seem like a lot, but that’s a prospect’s salary right there. If nothing else, that’s an extra amount of money available to give to Pietrangelo if the Blues go that route.
Another reason to keep Bozak is age. The center is no spring chicken, but he is currently 34 while Steen is 36.
Bozak technically provides a slightly better game than Steen. His offensive stats are better overall.
It does need to be mentioned that Steen has accepted a much more defensive-oriented role the last few years. Even so, Bozak’s offensive numbers have been higher just in the time spent in St. Louis.
Bozak had 13 goals in both seasons in St. Louis – that number could go up if the Blues finish the 2019-20 season. He had 38 and 29 points respectively, too – again that point total could change.
As of the stoppage due to the pandemic, Steen had 10 and seven goals respectively. He had 27 and 17 points.
As mentioned, Steen has focused more on defense and often played a fourth line role in 2018-19. Even so, their defensive point share numbers are identical. Each had 1.4 DPS in 2018-19 and 1.2 DPS in 2019-20.
Bozak’s adjusted points are much higher than Steen’s. Though the comparison might not be completely fair, Bozak has been more clutch too. He has five game-winning goals over the last two seasons, while Steen has had none.
Another reason the Blues should keep Bozak to keep themselves strong up the middle. Championship teams are often very strong at center and the Blues kept that theme going when they won in 2018-19.
St. Louis had Ryan O’Reilly, Brayden Schenn and Tyler Bozak on their top three lines. They groomed Robert Thomas with a game here or there at center as well. The Blues also had several players helping out up the middle, such as Oskar Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev.
Having all that flexibility allowed the team to shift players to the wing when necessary. The bottom line is the more centers the better.
Bozak is also fantastic at faceoffs. While we all remember faceoffs lost, Bozak is still one of the best in the league. For comparison, O’Reilly has regularly been near the top of the faceoff list in the NHL. Bozak has only been 2% or less lower than O’Reilly on the dot.
If nothing else, the Blues should keep Bozak because he has an epic pirate beard during the playoffs and his wife Molly is a solid social media follow.
The Blues have big decisions to make if they want to free up salary. While it would be very strange to see Steen play for anyone else at this stage or simply to not have him on the roster, Bozak is just slightly more valuable right now.
We’ll see what the Blues do.