No matter how much we are told that the St. Louis Blues won’t dive into the deep end when free agency opens, we all still expect fireworks. Even as a person that wrote articles talking about how weak this free agent class is, the first day of 2021 free agency came and went with a thud.
Doug Armstrong made no moves at all on July 28, 2021. Armstrong did not even manage to re-sign any of his own free agents.
Of course, the vocal portion of Blues fandom was quite upset with how the day transpired. It mainly consisted of people complaining that the Blues were doing nothing while all these other teams signed people.
Nevermind whether the signing was a good one or not, or whether said player would fit with the Blues. St. Louis was not mentioned in the news feed, so shame on the front office for not giving the fans a signing that they would likely complain about anyway.
For most of the day, this all made sense. Let the other teams overpay while Armstrong accomplishes his normal magic.
Many expected one, if not both players, to be gone from the 2021-22 roster. However, the assumption was they were going to price themselves out of the Blues range.
Instead, both signed reasonable contracts. Schwartz was given a five-year deal with an average annual value of $5.5 million, while Hoffman came in at a three-year deal with an AAV of $4.5 million.
The Blues could have afforded both of those and still had money to spend on their RFA’s. It would have been tight, but it could have been done.
The worrying thing is that St. Louis could not retain either player for money they’re actually worth. There were rumors that Schwartz wanted Brayden Schenn money and Hoffman may have still been chasing that $8 million contract.
Instead, they bolt the team and sign deals that most fans would have been happy with. Hoffman’s contract was particularly palatable, especially since Andy Strickland claimed the Blues were very close with Hoffman before Montreal swooped in at the last moment.
It’s an interesting choice by Hoffman. Yes, Montreal is fresh off a Finals appearance, but they’re in a tough division and don’t have the benefit of playing an all-Canadian division any longer. Additionally, Carey Price may or may not start the season.
The Schwartz situation is worrying because the Blues either low-balled him or just let him walk. St. Louis can withstand his loss, regardless of what Twitter says, but the worry is this shift in player happiness.
We all know the Vladimir Tarasenko complaints. Yet, if Schwartz was hot to get out of town too, then what is going on behind the scenes?
On top of that, the Blues missed out on some decent names. As of writing, the signing is not official, but it’s reported that Kyle Palmieri will sign a long-term deal with the New York Islanders. He would have fit the Blues perfectly.
Luke Schenn went back to Vancouver after collecting his two Stanley Cup rings in Tampa. I’m all for giving the young defenders a shot, but having Schenn’s experience on the left side and his chemistry with his brother would have been nothing but good in the locker room.
I would have loved for the Blues to sign Phillip Danault. $5.5 million is an overpayment for a third or fourth line center that does not score much though. It’s probably fine for the Kings, who may use Danault higher in their line chart, but didn’t work out for St. Louis.
David Savard signed a reasonable deal with Montreal. I don’t know if the Blues are looking at defense at all, but having a proven winner instead of relying solely on Robert Bortuzzo for an entire season would have been a good direction to go.
At just $900,000, kicking the tires on Keith Yandle might have been smart. Again, who knows if Armstrong was even thinking blue line.
Most fans are quite willing to give Armstrong the benefit of the doubt, for now. Even the most staunch Armstrong supporter is scratching their head after day one of the 2021 free agency period.
The addition of Pavel Buchnevich got people excited, but you’ve lost two good players in free agency and traded a depth player to acquire the Russion. The math doesn’t add up.
Most were fine losing Hoffman or Schwartz with the assumption they wanted too much. Their contracts were right in the Blues’ wheel house.
Armstrong showed patience, but if you’re really considering yourself as contending for a championship, then you cannot be as thin and unproven as the Blues currently are.
As of writing, free agents like Brandon Saad and Thomas Tatar are still available, so perhaps Armstrong will still make an addition or two. If not, then his ability to keep this team at the top of the conference has taken a knock.
The Blues should not spend money just to spend it, but don’t tell people you’re still within your championship window if you’re turning the roster over to young players.
There is still time for the Blues to be tweaked with a free agent or a trade. For now, their offseason is going about as poorly as it could.