St. Louis Blues: NHL Cap Situation Unclear Until RFA’s Are Signed

SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 06: A closeup view of the draft board during the 2020 National Hockey League (NHL) Draft at the NHL Network Studio on October 06, 2020 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 06: A closeup view of the draft board during the 2020 National Hockey League (NHL) Draft at the NHL Network Studio on October 06, 2020 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Blues have their own cap troubles to worry about. Getting out of those troubles may prove harder than even the pessimists believed.

The St. Louis Blues did not sign their Stanley Cup captain, but picked up a very good defenseman in the process. We all like to say they “saved” $2.3 million per season in the process.

While that is mathmatically correct, due to the difference in AAV, the Blues still find themselves in cap trouble. Perhaps you could call it cap hell, but we’ll know that more in the coming seasons when younger players start needing their contracts.

Still, Blues fans, like all NHL fans around the league, come up with all sorts of interesting deals to clear the money. Just trade this player or that player for a draft pick or prospect and you’re good to go.

See, that works on EA Sports NHL franchise or maybe Football Manager or some other GM simulation. It just likely is not going to work in the 2020 NHL offseason.

I’ve been saying this for awhile, but even I did not realize how bad things were until watching a recent The Hockey Guy video on this very subject. I encourage people to give him a follow since he’s a fair, unbiased source of conglomerated league news.

In case you don’t want to watch the whole thing, basically it boils down to 22 of the 31 current teams have little to no space. As The Hockey Guy points out, sometimes CapFriendly can be deceiving and it is in a sense right here.

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The website is not deceiving in the fact it is providing simple numbers. The tricky part is the fact it looks like there are several teams that have cap space, so plenty of fans of other teams are yelling at their GM about why they have not signed Mike Hoffman or some other free agent out there.

Boston fans are furious that their only signings are to keep mid-level guys that were already on their team. Columbus fans want them to sign someone to help take the next step. It goes on and on with many fan bases.

Even Blues fans continue to believe there might be further moves. This is despite the fact the Blues are currently $1.2 million over the cap right now.

As far as the Blues go, the question mark is about LTIR. It is my understanding that CapFriendly seems to be counting Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen as LTIR right now, which means the Blues are over the cap even with their relief.

Other analysts seem to be discussing factors as though those two contracts are not being counted as LTIR yet. If that is the case, then there is some wiggle room.

Perhaps it is that way, because everyone in a position of knowledge, including the Blues GM and coach, keep talking about Vince Dunn as though he’s part of next year’s team. If my scenario is right, there’s almost no way they could keep him even though he’s been given an offer sheet.

Yet, circling back to THG’s video, there’s almost no teams that could provide the Blues any help. 22 teams, regardless of what space they have as of October 15, are likely to have almost zero cap space by the time they actually fill out their roster and sign their restricted free agents.

Some teams will have to fill out their NHL roster with three or more league minimum contracts just to fit. They cannot afford any of the $5-plus million contracts the Blues might want to jettison.

Those teams that actually might have space when all is said and done, like Los Angeles, are in rebuilds. Those franchises would probably just rather save the money.

Teams like Buffalo, despite paying a chunk for Taylor Hall for one year, have said they have an internal cap. So, just because a website says a team has space doesn’t mean they have any intention of spending.

So, many teams are stuck. They cannot take on salary, even if they might be interested in a player like Tyler Bozak or even Jaden Schwartz.

Fans cannot just look at salary cap available today. You also have to take into consideration how many players they have locked up.

The Blues have 21 of 23 possible spots filled, so Dunn’s contract is the only one still dangling out there. Other teams, like Calgary or Tampa Bay might struggle.

Tampa has a little over $2 million in cap space as of October 15, but they have four or five spots to fill with that little amount of money. Calgary only has 17 players signed and just over $5 million left to fill the rest.

Even a team like New Jersey is deceiving. They have over $18 million in cap space, so theoretically, they could take a run at someone like Hoffman. They only have 15 players signed to NHL contracts right now though, so that’s eight players that will all take a chunk out of that cap space.

Needless to say, as long as the cap stays flat, there’s a lot of teams that are going to struggle bringing in new players or keeping their own if they’re due for big raises. The elite always get their money, but that next level of guy, like a Hoffman, that provide a lot but are not in that upper echelon, might get left out in the cold.

Next. League executive not pleased with Blues free agent moves. dark

This is all another example of the Blues being smart for the long term in not caving to Pietrangelo. It would have been great for him to stay all his career, but that money given now would have left other players without anything the Blues could offer in the future.