St. Louis Blues: What the End of the Lockout Means for the Blues
Hockey fans are rejoicing everywhere; the lockout is over.
According to NHL.com, the NHL and NHLPA tentatively agreed to a new CBA early Sunday morning. The sides agreed to a 50-50 revenue split, a $64.3 million cap for Year 2, and seven-year contract limits for new free agents, among other things. The 10-year deal has yet to be formally written up, but the announcement means that there will be hockey this season.
For the Blues, this could be their season.
One of the major points in the final days of negotiating was the cap for the second year of the CBA. The agreed upon number is $64.3 million, which shouldn't hurt the Blues at all. In fact, it may help them.
The Blues currently have a $53.65 cap, according to Cap Geek. The Blues will have the major offseason task of re-signing Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk, which will put a big hit on the cap. If the Blues want, they will also have to re-sign Chris Stewart, Matt D'Agostini and Patrik Berglund. The Blues will have to work hard to retain their young core, but the open cap space allows them to do so.
Or, the Blues can decide to just retain Pietrangelo (the best of those up for a new contract), and try to sign a big-name player to play for the Blues.
The Blues haven't actively chased a major piece in free agency in recent years, and with the cap space they have, they could grab a big-name player that hit the market because of a cap buyout. Devin Setoguchi or Dany Heatley could be targets if they are bought out in Minnesota.
With the CBA being signed in early January, both sides are shooting for a 50-game season, all played against conference opponents. The Blues went 35-20-9 last year, which would give them 79 points over 64 games. The record also was the fourth-best in the conference, which would mean that the Blues should make the playoffs again.
Last year, the Blues ran into the Los Angeles Kings in the second round of the playoffs and completely fizzled out. The Kings were firing on all cylinders while the Blues just couldn't seem to match their fire power. Scoring was a problem for the Blues, and critics don't believe the Blues can win the cup without scoring.
Cue: Vladimir Tarasenko.
With the lockout over, the Blues will get to play in the shortened season and have one of their best prospects be a part of it. Tarasenko has been tearing up the KHL, scoring 31 points in 31 games. He's a part of SKA St. Petersburg, which is leading the KHL. He will provide the goal-scoring abilities that the Blues were lacking last season.
Ultimately, the shortened season will benefit the Blues because of the work they put in last season. The Blues made huge strides and looked like cup contenders off the amazing play of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott.
Even if they can't be as good as they were last season, the shortened season allows them to have more off games than other teams can afford. If Halak gets cold, Elliott steps in; if Elliott gets cold, Halak steps up.
Most teams don't have the luxury of having two starting goalies on their roster.
Pair that with Ken Hitchcock's defensive style of play, and the Blues look to have one of the best defenses in the league again. In a season where every goal counts, the more the Blues keep out of the net, the better chance they have at staying near the top of the standings.
Finally, the offense will gain from having Tarasenko, but will also benefit from a full year of David Perron. Add T.J. Oshie, David Backes, Berglund, Andy McDonald and Stewart to the mix, and the Blues could be putting up some serious offensive numbers—some which the team hasn't seen since their 25-year playoff streak.
So, why is it the Blues' year?
They have everything in place to make a serious cup run. Don't be surprised if you see David Backes holding the cup come June.
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