QUESTION: What does your gut tell you about the status of unrestricted free agent Barret Jackman? Do you think he’ll be back with the Blues next season?
There’s a very good chance Jackman is back next year. Say what you want about Jackman’s mistakes, giveaways, etc. It happens to good defensemen throughout the league who make a lot more money.
If people take Jackman for what he is, “a very defined player” who plays “hard minutes,” as GM Doug Armstrong said this week, Jackman is very serviceable.
That said, his playoff performance (like the team) was not good. With Kevin Shattenkirk failing to step up, Jackman was exposed and it put a dismal finish on a consistent season.
Is he the best option for the Blues as a top-four defenseman who makes $3-plus million a year? Many will argue he’s not and perhaps there are alternatives. But Armstrong is big on paying for the player he knows on and off the ice over the player he’s not familiar with, and the Blues are confident in what they have in Jackman.
My gut tells me he will be back. The fact Jackman sees himself as a top-four defenseman, as he stated in Jeremy Rutherford’s recent story, suggests to me he might find a lean market.
Jackman’s presence in the dressing room and the regard with which he is held by teammates can’t be overstated. But the bottom line takes place on the ice. I’m just not sure Jackman is a top-four defenseman, playing important minutes against top opposing forwards, on a Stanley Cup contender. And that said, I don’t think he is going to be able to command that kind of contract on the free-agent market.
I do think he is a valuable member of the Blues, one they would like to retain in a slightly less prominent role, and one who might be even more successful in that role. But we’ll see. Maybe there are teams who feel he can fit into their top four. He’s been a solid leader and great citizen for the Blues, no reason not to wish the best for him.
My gut feeling is that it’s time to move on. Eastern Conference teams like Ottawa are looking for rugged stay-at-home defensemen and the free-agent marketplace is thin. He could cash in and get a fresh start elsewhere. It won’t take much to price him out of the St. Louis budget for next year. The Blues want to find a spot for Ian Cole in the Top 6, given his potential to develop into a strong defensive zone presence. Offensive-minded Cade Fairchild is also ready for a bigger fill-in role next season.