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Charles Krupa/Associated Press
The St. Louis Blues were knocked out of the playoffs with a second-round loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday, putting the focus on the offseason.
St. Louis is only a few years away from winning the Stanley Cup in 2019, but the past two seasons have had disappointing ends with first-round playoff losses in 2020 and 2021.
The team looked set for a deeper run in 2021-22 with 109 points and a 49-22-11 regular season record, with the type of rotation that can beat almost anyone in the NHL. It still wasn’t enough to bring home another title.
On the plus side, the roster is still filled with talent who remain under contract until next year.
This could lead to a great 2022-23 campaign with some key improvements over the coming months.
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Unrestricted Free Agents
- Nick Leddy
- David Perron
- F James Neal
- F MacKenzie MacEachern
- D Rue Rosen
- F Tyler Bozak
- Charlie Lindgren
- G Ville Husso
- D Tommy Cross
- F Sam Anas
Restricted Free Agents
- Dr. Scott Perunovitch
- F Klim Kostin
- F Hugh McGing
- F William Mordu
- Niko Mikkola
- F Tanner Kaspick
- F Nathan Todd
- F Dakota Joshua
The Blues will have tough free agency decisions, with goalkeeper Ville Husso likely to top the list.
Husso had a stellar season with a 2.47 goals-against average in 39 appearances, much better than Jordan Binnington’s 3.10 average. The Blues went 25-6-6 in starts from Husso, but only 18-13-4 with Binnington in goal.
The problem is that Husso is a free agent, while Binnington is signed for five more seasons, including a no-trade clause until next year. St. Louis must decide whether to pay for the breakout star or return to the proven veteran in 2022-23.
Experienced players like David Perron and Tyler Bozak will also be unrestricted free agents, but the team must decide if they’re worth the extra cost of signing aging players.
Defender Niko Mikkola could also be looking for a raise this offseason after appearing in 52 games this season, forcing the hand of the front office as a restricted free agent.
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Chris Tanouye/Getty Images
The Blues gave up their second-round draft pick in the trade that clinched Pavel Buchnevich, who puts more pressure on the team to hit his first selection. While the late first-round selection won’t have an immediate impact, the team still needs long-term organizational help.
Here are some players to watch ahead of the July 7 draft.
Owen Pickering, D, Swift Current Broncos
The last time the Blues used a first-round pick on a defender was in 2012 with Jordan Schmaltz, a player who saw limited playing time over three seasons from 2016 to 2019. It’s time for the organization to try again at the post.
St. Louis has few young defensive options on the roster, and the situation will only get worse if Scott Perunovich and Niko Mikkola leave for free agency.
Owen Pickering could help fill an important hole as a top defenseman who would help on both sides of the ice if he hits expectations.
At 6’4″, 178 pounds, Pickering has excellent height for the position and pairs with quality batting skills. This has helped him become a key contributor for the Swift Current Broncos in the WHL, with the potential to be even better once he reaches the NHL.
Lian Bichsel, D, Leksand
Another towering defenseman, Lian Bichsel is 6’5″, 216 pounds and will be just 18 when drafted.
The left-handed player hails from Switzerland and has represented the country at several youth tournaments, and he has played at club level in Sweden for Leksands IF while seeing consistent playing time in a squad with many older players and more experienced.
While Bichsel isn’t necessarily an offensive star, he can be a reliable defensive presence as a big hitter who keeps goals off the board.
St. Louis did well to trust their forwards to generate the offense while keeping the pressure on the defenders. This strategy can continue with a player like Bichsel who can fill a major need.
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Jeff Roberson/Associated Press
Most of the Blues’ key players from last season are still under contract and will be on the ice for the team in 2022-23.
The attack has a quality mix of veterans in Vladimir Tarasenko, Pavel Buchnevich and Ryan O’Reilly, while young players like Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou should continue to improve. Blues defensemen Colton Parayko and Justin Faulk continue to play at a high level, with Faulk’s plus-41 rating one of the best in the NHL this season.
This team could still use more depth, but there’s enough on the roster to keep St. Louis among the NHL’s top contenders.
The goaltending situation remains a major question mark, with Jordan Binnington hoping to re-establish himself as one of the league’s best in net. If Ville Husso ends up being the No.1, the team could be in even better shape.
Either way, head coach Craig Berube will have a lot to do as he tries to win a second Stanley Cup.