Once the St. Louis Blues finish the 2019-20 season, they have serious decisions to make regarding their blue line. However, the steady improvement of one defender should put their minds at ease.
The St. Louis Blues are in a no-win scenario going into whenever the 2020 offseason comes around. While they have over 90% of their squad inked to contracts for seasons to come, the guys they have remaining as potential free agents are going to split fans down the middle.
Of course, by now we all know that the players the Blues have yet to sign as of the end of June are Alex Pietrangelo and Vince Dunn. Both were key players in the run to the 2019 Stanley Cup and will have plenty of fans upset if one or both do not return.
The loss of any player is never a comfortable thing as there are always at least a few that liked the player while they wore the Blues sweater. It gets magnified even more when that player is a team captain and considered the best overall player on your blue line.
Very few fans want Pietrangelo gone. However, the team’s financial situation regarding the cap, compiled with the fact the cap is going to stay stagnant when the team hoped it might rise prior to the pandemic, means he is likely gone.
All is not lost though. The Blues have a guy that everyone loves and is ready to be on the top pairing.
That guy is Colton Parayko. Parayko is a rare player in today’s game in which you would be hard pressed to find a negative word said about the big man.
If you’re really searching hard, the biggest detraction for his game is he does not shoot enough. The only reason that is a problem is since he has one of the harder shots in the league and he doesn’t unleash it on opposing defenders and goaltenders enough.
Outside of that, Parayko is a complete player.
The guy can skate well enough that there were honestly calls for him to be slotted as a forward when the Blues had some injury problems not that long ago. He would have fit in fine and maybe even gotten him used to being a bit more free offensively.
His height gives him a big advantage too. Beyond a long reach, his stick is literally almost as tall as some players in the league.
Despite being big, he has tremendous footwork. He can keep pace with some of the best forwards in the league and is big enough to put them in check when they try to escape.
Even though Parayko has been on the second pairing for a couple seasons, he is regularly used as the team’s shutdown defender. He, as well as Jay Bouwmeester or Marco Scandella, has seen action against the opponent’s top forwards in all sorts of key situations.
Parayko was regularly on the ice against the top line of Boston during the Stanley Cup Final. He is simply a complete hockey player.
That is not to say he is the best defender in the league. Even so, he’s one of the best on the team.
The great thing is Parayko continues to evolve and get better. There is little reason to think he has his his ceiling yet.
With that in mind, he is ready to be the top defenseman on this team.
That would beg the question of whether you’re comfortable putting Scandella on the top pairing or splitting them up, but that’s a different discussion. Scandella isn’t that much different from Carl Gunnarsson, who saw time on the top pairing at various points with the Blues.
No matter who he gets paired with, Parayko is ready for the top spot. Nobody really wants to lose Pietrangelo, but we should not think the cupboard is bare behind him.
Parayko has not put up similar point totals, but he’s been focused on defense. Give him a little more freedom and special teams time and the points will increase.
Parayko likely won’t magically become a 50 point scorer overnight. Still, the goal totals are similar to Petro and the defensive side is better.
Maybe the Blues find a way to maneuver the pieces around and keep their defense completely in tact. If not, the team already has its next top defenseman on the roster in Colt 55.