The St. Louis Blues don’t have any huge aspirations this offseason. They are likely to be content with re-signing David Perron and making a tweak here or there.
The problem is knowing how much money they actually have to spend. It’s not as clear as one might think.
A look at CapFriendly, as of July 5, shows the Blues have a little over $9 million in cap space going into the official offseason, which starts July 13. That seems like a solid amount, right?
Sign Perron to something around $4 million and maybe you talk Nick Leddy into a $4.5 million contract to play for a winner. Done, dusted and we’re all happy.
As Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend. The Blues do have $9 million in space, but it’s not actually freed up if you really look at it.
Unless the Blues totally low-ball Perron and he bolts, I would still plan to earmark somewhere around $4 million for him. Given the season he had in 2021-22, he’s earned the right to keep the salary he had, unless he’s willing to cut the Blues a small discount. Even then, I don’t see anything lower than $3.5 million and that’s being generous.
So, you have a little over $5 million left. The problem becomes that you cannot just spend that on one guy.
St. Louis has Nikko Mikkola and Scott Perunovich as pending free agents. Both are restricted, likely having to accept whatever the team offers, but that’s still money taken away from that pile.
CapFriendly does currently have Calle Rosen on the main roster, so you can take his total off. $762,500 doesn’t get you any more space though. At best, that’s a wash for Perunovich and likely only accounts for half of what you’re likely to pay either Mikkola or Perunovich.
You’re still left with, at least, one defenseman’s full contract to pay. You also have a forward spot to fill.
Barring anything unforeseen, don’t expect Tyler Bozak back. He’s already listed as a free agent, so his money isn’t being counted. Thus, even if you pencil Jake Neighbours into that slot, that’s another $800,00-plus gone from the $5 million you have to spend.
Combine that with the defensive player’s contract and you’re probably down around $2 million. That gives you $3 million to spend.
We’re not quite done yet. St. Louis has that minor issue of needing a backup goaltender.
Ville Husso is now unrestricted, or at least will be when free agency opens up. At this point, unless Doug Armstrong works some sort of hypnotic voodoo, I don’t see you convincing Husso to stay, even if you do a one-year bridge contract.
There’s just going to be too many teams willing to give him starter minutes and starter money. $3 million just won’t cut it.
You still need someone to fill that gap. Joel Hofer would be cheap with a cap hit of $795,000. He needs to play, not sit on the bench for 60 games.
The social media crowd will say bring back Charlie Sideburns. Charlie Lindgren came cheap last season with a cap hit of $750,000 and did a fine job in limited duty.
Seriously, are we willing to bet that he’s a viable starter if Jordan Binnington got hurt? Options are not vast, but I also don’t want a scenario like Montreal went through in 2015-16 where Carey Price started the year 10-2, got hurt and then the Canadiens missed the playoffs because their backups could not stop a beach ball the rest of the year.
Even if you go that route and bring up Hofer or sign Lindgren for $1 million, or less, your cap space is next to nothing. At that point, you’re looking at $2 million, or less, to spend on an actual free agent from outside of your system. That amount is even lower if you bring in a more proven backup goaltender in the offseason.
I do not suggest the Blues should sit on that money and do nothing, but what are you getting for that kind of money? You’re definitely not going to get a top-four defenseman.
At best, you might get a depth forward looking to have a bounceback year or another third-pair defender. The Blues have enough of that, so it would almost feel like spending money just because you have it. The government does enough of that.
It’s an odd situation to be in. It kind of doesn’t settle right in the brain to see $9-plus million in cap space, but realize that you really don’t have any money freed up to bring in something truly quality.
I don’t want to see Perron go, but it might actually make more sense to let him walk, sign Nick Leddy and hand over the forward spot to some younger guys. It is quite unlikely Armstrong would not reward Perron after carrying the team in the playoffs and for a good chunk of the regular season, but business is business.
What stinks about this scenario is that, of any team in the Western Conference, the Blues are probably best suited to knock off Colorado. Regardless of what any analyst says, St. Louis was the closest and might have done it if their starting goalie did not get run over. However, when they really don’t have the cap space to make additions and can only re-sign players they already had, that gap is harder to close.
We will see what happens, but the offseason may be more boring than many think. Of course, I say that and Armstrong may pull off some blindside trade and shock us all. It’s happened before.