NHL's St. Louis Blues: 5 Moves They Did Right This Offseason
Being in the Midwest and out of the big markets of the NHL, the Blues do not get a lot of media representation. But they have been making all of the right moves this offseason. They are preparing the team for seasons filled with wins and deep postseason runs.
The Blues took the NHL by storm last year, and are now riding the momentum gained into next season. Every move made was to advance from where they left off.
Now, it is time to see what they did right, and how it affects them in the future.
1. Retained Young Core
Coming into this offseason, the Blues had T.J. Oshie, David Perron, Ryan Reaves, and Chris Stewart all up for contracts. The Blues managed to resign every one of them.
Chris Stewart signed for a 1 year, $3 million contract. David Perron received a 4 year, $15.25 million contract. T.J. Oshie was hours away from arbitration before signing a 5 year, $20.8 million contract. And for enforcer Ryan Reaves, the Blues gave him a 2 year, $1.2 million contract.
All of this points to a solid, talented, young core returning for the Blues. Every player that was part of the incredible run the Blues went through last season is now a year older; has a year more of experience; and, has a brand new contract, showing that the Blues are confident in the players that are homegrown.
The Blues signed every person that they needed to. Now the team is primed for another playoff run.
2. Didn't Overspend in Free Agency
Perhaps the only thing the Blues could have improved on in the offseason was adding a top-four defenseman. But, the Blues refused to overpay for a player.
Matt Carle was at the top of the Blues list. They knew that they couldn't afford the insane contract that Ryan Suter was demanding, so they targeted the second-biggest defenseman. Carle received an offer from the Blues, but ultimately signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning for 6 years $33 million.
This kind of money is not the money the Blues want to be spending. They would have surely had to let someone in their core go, probably Oshie or Perron. Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk have the ability to be top-two defensemen, and will demand big-name contracts when they become unrestricted free agents. The Blues will want to keep both of these players, and will want to make sure they have the cap room to do so.
The Blues didn't need a top-six forward or top-four defenseman. If they do, they can get one at the trade deadline. But for now, the Blues made the right decision and sat on their hands when everyone was wheeling and dealing.
3. Contract Extension for Ken Hitchcock
While the team did all of the work on the ice, there was no one who was off-ice who was more vital to the Blues than head coach Ken Hitchcock.
Hitchcock was brought into replace David Payne just 13 games into the season. Payne and the Blues were off to a 6-7 start, and looked like they were going to miss the playoffs again. Hitchcock went 43-15-11 over the span of the season, and took the Blues to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Hitchcock's success was rewarded with a two-year contract extension, with an option for a third year. Not only that, but he was awarded the Jack Adams trophy, which is awarded to the best head coach in the NHL.
The Blues needed his hard and authoritative coaching style to hold the players accountable. He made sure that the Blues knew that defense was the key to success, not offensive power.
Without Hitchcock, the Blues would not have had the success they did. Now, they are facilitating that success to continue.
4. Tarasenko Comes to the NHL
There was a lot of doubt as to whether or not Vladimir Tarasenko would leave the KHL and come to the NHL with the Blues. All year there was speculation, and finally the Blues made it happen. Tarasenko signed a three-year entry level contract with the Blues.
In 175 games in the KHL, Tarasenko scored 99 points for his respective clubs. In 26 games of international play, he scored 31 points. He is a pure goal scorer, one that the Blues have needed. Tarasenko is primed to come to the NHL, and could be the top-six forward that the Blues have needed.
It may take a few years for Tarasenko to develop into the superstar that he can be, but the Blues made the first right move by bringing him to St. Louis.
5. Kept the Fans Interested
Everything the Blues did this season was to better the team, but it indirectly worked to keept he fans interested in the team.
Over the past season, the fandom of the Blues has increased dramatically. Before their success, you could barely see Blues memorabilia on the streets. Now, wherever you go in St. Louis, you see someone wearing the Blue Note. It has gotten to the point that Blues items are rivaling Cardinals gear.
The Blues have had sellout crowds for the past few seasons, and now the fans are getting really into the games. If you went to a game right after the lockout, you could hear the players talking on the ice. Now, with the retention of the young core and the extension of Hitchcock, the fans make Scottrade a very difficult place to play.
The Blues are looking to add to the success that they saw last season, and every single one of these moves will make the team better next season.