The Seattle Kraken’s expansion draft is nearing, and there are a lot of questions going around; Who will be protected? Are the St. Louis Blues going to protect Tarasenko? What are the off-season plans for the Blues? What style defense are they going to run? What type of offense are they going to run? All of these questions are going to play a big factor in who the Blues will chose to protect, and who they decide to let go.
There was recently a press conference in which owner, Doug Armstrong, reflected on the Blues this past season, and expressed his thoughts going forward. Within some of his vague statements, there were a lot of subtle hints dropped about what he expects going into next season, and the type of team he want’s to build.
To any St. Louis Blues fan, they understand just how important this off-season really is. Looking back on the series against Colorado, the Blues were completely overmatched by the speed and youth of the Avalanche. However, it was very beneficial to the Blues when you take a in-depth look at what the outcome could allow the Blues to do this off-season.
Doug Armstrong strongly believes in the St. Louis Blues and that they are still in their Stanley Cup window. However, the thing to consider is that their matchup against the Avalanche just put on full display what the Blues are up against for the foreseeable future. After getting swept in the first round, Armstrong is going to be looking to re-vamp the Blues in hopes of competing next season for the cup. That mean’s that you should expect a big move or two before the start of the next season.
The Seattle Kraken’s expansion draft should give the Blues a push in the right direction. If they can make smart business decisions, the Blues could have a very good turn around this upcoming season. The St. Louis Blues have a lot of young depth to their roster, and the younger players such as Mikkola, Koston, MacEachern should see a lot more minutes on the ice come next season. However, you still have to build a team around the young players, and have a good balance of veterans as well. There have been multiple reports about what the Blues are going to do, however, it’s all speculation at this point. With that being said, I’m going to look at who I feel they should protect going into next season that will give them the best chance at winning.
Ryan O’Reilly: Ryan O’Reilly is the leader of the St. Louis Blues, and one of the only players that shined throughout the entirety of last season. After getting the captain patch, he claimed full responsibility for the Blues lack of offense in the playoffs, and claimed “I need to do better”. However, if you eliminate his lack of production in the playoffs, he was averaging just under a point per game last season. In 56 games O’Reilly totaled: 24 goals, 30 assists, +26, while only having 18 penalty minutes. O’Reilly is set to obtain $6,000,000 for the 2021-22 season.
David Perron: David Perron was a pivotal factor in the Blues success, and their ability to even get into the playoffs. Perron was perhaps the most important Blue this season given his elite offensive performances. His absence in the playoffs was a devastating loss for the Blues, and Blues fans, to hear. They needed to find a outlet and with him out, it showed the Blues just how important he is to the team. The Blues needed an is an elite offensive threat, and Perron is the closest they have to that. He finished the 2020-21 season with 19 goals, 39 assists, 58 total points, and a +6. He is scheduled to make $3,412,500 this upcoming season which compared to some of the other contracts on their roster is nothing. Letting him go in the expansion draft would be one of the biggest mistakes the Blues could ever make.
Jordan Kyrou: Jordan Kyrou should be one of the obvious candidates for the Blues to protect. Kyrou is a young, and extremely talented player for the St. Louis Blues. There will be argument as he wasn’t super productive this past season however, as a developing player, he has a lot to offer the Blues organization. Kyrou is a budding star, but with a lot movement this past season with injuries, once he finds a rhythm and chemistry with a line, he will be able to be a top six forward for the blues going forward. He finished the 2020-21 season with 14 goals, 21 assists, 35 total points, and +1. He is set to make $832,500 for this upcoming season which will allow the Blues to have a lot more cap space for off-season moves and acquisitions.
Brayden Schenn: The Blues have some touch decisions that need to be made, and a lot of question marks that need to be answered. Schenn has been apart of the Blues organization since 2017, and has found a home with the Blues. With three forwards protected thus far into the article, you need to keep in mind, what do they need. After reading through multiple reports, it is sounding like they are going to be looking to utilize some of their top prospects next season. If that is the case, there has to be a balance of veteran leadership and youth. If the Blues keep Schenn, you get to keep a veteran leader on your team and a player who still has a lot to offer. Schenn finished the 2020-21 season with 16 goals, 20 assists, 36 total points, -2 while finishing the season with 119 hits. Schenn is scheduled to make $8,000,000 this upcoming season.
Robert Thomas: The St. Louis Blues are looking to add some speed to their roster, and so with that, they would be stupid to get rid of Robert Thomas. Thomas is one of the fastest skaters in the Blues organization, and is still very young and has room to grow as a player. He battled injuries in each of his first three seasons which is the biggest question mark revolving around his name. However, if healthy, he can be one of the most valuable Blues players going into next season. Thomas has great playmaking ability, and is extremely fast that will allow him to beat the defenders with his speed alone. Thomas, who is still on his rookie contract is set to make $832,500 this upcoming season.
Oskar Sundqvist: The Blues definitely missed Sundqvist in the playoffs as he was nursing his torn ACL. Sundqvist is a big part of the Blues due to his power play ability, and he produces. Oskar, although he didn’t play much this past season as he was injured, still managed to score four goals, along with having five assists in 28 games this past season. If you take a look back to last season though he finished with 12 goals, 11 assists, 23 total points and a +/- of +9. He is set to make $3,000,000 next season from the Blues.
Vladimir Tarasenko: This one will probably get a lot of hate, or maybe it won’t, I’m not sure but hear me out at least. I went back-and-forth with this one for a long time, but I ended up deciding to protect Vladimir Tarasenko. When you look at the St. Louis Blues roster, there are a lot of good players, but there is only one player on that roster that has the ability to put up 30 goals and 30 assists and that’s Tarasenko. The Blues have a lot of holes that need to be filled and I understand that he may not be “worth the money”, but he is the only player on the Blues that has the ability to produce. In the last game against the Avalanche in which they got eliminated, he put up two goals and was playing like old Tarasenko. If he can get healthy, he has the ability to still be a superstar in the NHL, and can be the leader of the Blues. If you take a look back to last season, although he only played in 10 games, he still had three goals and seven assists. He averaged a point a game, and although it was a small margin in those 10 games, he was healthy. If Tarasenko can get healthy take the off-season to nurse back to health, he can be a elite player for the Blues that they will desperately be lacking should he not be on the team.
Colton Parayko: The Blues defense struggled this past season due to injuries, and the loss of Alex Pietrangelo. After Pietrangelo left in the off-season to join the Vegas Knights and former teammate, Ryan Reaves, Parayko was projected to be the next-of-kin for the Blues. Statistically he did not produce to the same level that they would’ve hoped, and due to a nagging injury, wasn’t as big a part of the Blues defense as they would’ve hoped. However, if Parayko can get healthy, he can definitely become the star defender they had hoped he could be. This past season Parayko played in 32 games while scoring two goals, and having 10 assists on the offensive side of the game. If you take a look at the defensive side to his game though, he had 64 blocked shots, 35 hits, and 13 takeaways. Parayko is scheduled to make $3,350,000 this upcoming season.
Torey Krug: Although Krug hasn’t been apart of the Blues organization for too long, he has already found himself being a fan favorite to many. Krug fits the Blues play style perfectly with his elite playmaking ability, and his power play ability. He played in 51 games this past season while totaling two goals, 30 assists, and had a +/- of +11. However, if you look at his power play stats, he also finished with one goal, and had 12 assists. You can just see by the statistics, even if you haven’t seen him play, that he is a true playmaker with the puck, and a great option for the Blues going forward. As a defender though, there is more to his game than just his playmaking ability. He also finished the season with 57 blocked shots, 51 hits, and seven takeaways. This upcoming season Krug, is scheduled to make $4,000,000 from the Blues, which is going to be money well spent in most people’s books.
Vince Dunn: The Blues have had many reports of them possibly changing the style of play going forward. After watching the Blues get swept by the Avalanche, you can see just how much the Blues need to find some speed. With the defense they had out there, they were unable to keep up with Rantanen, and MacKinnon. In order to keep up with them, you’re going to have to find some speed, and youth out on the ice. With that being said, that is where I feel Dunn should come into place. Many will disagree with protecting Dunn over Faulk, however, there are a lot of different areas that made me feel this was the smarter pick. Dunn is a much quicker skater that will allow for him to transition onto defense with guys like MacKinnon and Rantanen, but Dunn is also much cheaper. Although, Dunn is a restricted free agent, I’m expecting in this situation they will re-sign him. Faulk, although he took big strides this past season as a player, is still scheduled to make $9,000,000 this upcoming season. With the Blues keeping Tarasenko, they need to find a way to lose some money and Faulk doesn’t seem too invaluable to re-place.
Jordan Binnington: The Blues have the easiest choice in the world with who they will keep as their goalie. Binnington, although not the same goalie he was in 2019, is still one of the best goalie’s in the league when it comes down to the playoffs. If you were to take a look at the statistics from the series against the Avalanche, you would see that the goals for Colorado are misleading compared to just how well Binnington played. Binnington is a beloved Blue, and letting him go could be the worst decision the Blues organization would make.
The St. Louis Blues have a lot of different paths they could take as far as who they will protect, but if you look at who they should protect, this is how I feel. There will be a lot of conversation and debate surrounding who I decided they should protect, but that is always the fun of making these articles. With the selection of keeping these players, the Blues are under-way with the revamping the Blues in order to compete once again for the Stanley Cup. This past season should’ve been an eye opener for the Blues front office after barely making it into the playoff that they need to get some star-power. If you want to see who I feel they should sign, stay tuned for my next article.