The Blues shouldn't be a big player in the NHL Draft that begins tonight. They currently have just four picks: Their second-, third-, fifth- and seventh-round selections.
Could the Blues move an extraneous player or two for picks? That isn't likely, since expiring contracts (Carl Gunnarsson, Chris Thorburn, KHL-bound Nikita Soshnikov) could reduce some roster clutter.
General manager Doug Armstrong feels no need to subtract from his core group after winning a Stanley Cup, so it's tough to imagine a blockbuster deal. The Blues are also up against the NHL salary cap. Dollars are tight.
What will become of Pat Maroon? He is a great fit with the team chemistry and he played a key role in the Cup run, but where will his dollars go in unrestricted free agency?
We could hear some trade speculation about Jake Allen, since he carries a $4.35 million cap hit for two more years and Jordan Binnington could get some real money in restricted free agency.
But the goaltending market is weird. Are there are any teams looking to make a play on Allen? And what do the replacement options look like, in terms of cost and quality? The dominoes will start falling once we knew where unrestricted free agent Sergei Bobrovsky lands.
Brayden Schenn is a year removed from unrestricted free agency. He was delighted to see Kevin Hayes get a seven-year, $50 million contract in Philadelphia. Schenn could make a case for more. Will the Blues try to lock him in or will Armstrong use him as a rental for next season and see how it plays?
Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist cemented their place on the team and earned nice raises with their breakout seasons. We know that Robert Thomas is a Top 6 forward in the making and that Jordan Kyrou could get there, too, presuming a full recovery from his knee injury.
Can the Blues keep everybody in that next group of young forwards -- Robby Fabbri, Sammy Blais, Zach Sanford and Mackenzie MacEachern -- knowing there is only so much work at the NHL level? For now, the answer appears to be yes.
But big winger Klim Kostin, 20, will be due for a NHL look next season and forward prospects Dominik Bokk and Alexei Toropchenko could enter the picture in 2020-21.
The Blues are largely set on defense, since Robert Bortuzzo and Jay Bouwmeester re-upped with team-friendly deals. Gunnarsson could get a decent offer from another team, so that could open up a spot for, say, Niko Mikkola -- a rangy defensive prospect who held up in the AHL this season and showed well for Finland (two goals, three assists in 10 games) at the World Championships.
So it doesn't look like the Blues will make headlines. But here are some things to watch:
- Chicago is willing to move the third overall pick, since there are a LOT of similar prospects sitting in behind top two talents Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. The Blackhawks could add local product Alex Turcotte, a solid two-way center, at No. 3. Or they could take playmaking center Trevor Zegras. Or they could trade down if another team offers a long-term asset to move up. GM Stan Bowman will have an interesting Friday. Among his other adventures: checking in on free-agent winger Corey Perry, who just got his buyout in Anaheim. Nashville is also kicking the Perry tires.
- Colorado, picking fourth, could add elite defensive prospect Bowen Byram as a long-term running mate of 2020 Calder Trophy candidate Cale Makar and shifty Sam Girard. If the 'Lanche do get Byram there, that could increase the odds of them trading defenseman Tyson Barrie a year ahead of his unrestricted free agency. Colorado could use more scoring punch behind its top three forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog.
- The Rangers should be the big winners of this draft. We assume Kakko will fall to them at No. 2 and give them an instant-impact scorer. Stealing defenseman Jacob Trouba for the 20th overall pick and defenseman Neal Pionk fast-forwarded their rebuild. The Rangers have two second-round picks, so they are a candidate to move up for another first-round pick. And they have the cap space to sign free agent Artemi Panarin. Don't forget that John Davidson -- who moved back home to the Rangers moved from Columbus -- is a big Panarin fan. Also keep an eye on former Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who could be on the move from his hometown team.
- The Devils could get a generational talent in Hughes. With Nico Hischier well on his way to becoming a top NHL center, Hughes could develop at a sensible pace as the No. 2 or No. 3 center. After drafting Hughes, the Devils should then try to lock winger Taylor Hall into a new long-term deal and prepare for takeoff.
- Perhaps the X Factor player in this draft is pint-sized scorer Cole Caufield, who could become the next Alex DeBrincat. He could go anywhere from No. 3 to No. 12. How many teams will make the same mistake they made while passing up on the Cat?
- Teams looking to add instant help for draft picks or prospects should call Minnesota about Jason Zucker. He is coming off of a down season (42 points, minus-9), but he scored 33 goals the year before. The Wild tried to deal him to Calgary, then Pittsburgh. Both deals fell through, so now GM Paul Fenton needs to send him somewhere to avoid an awkward scenario come training camp.
- The Vegas Golden Knights have nine picks in the first five rounds and an aggressive management team. But they also have some salary cap concerns. Even if they dispense of David Clarkson's dead money, how much flexibility can they create? Former Blue Paul Stastny could move into play, as could Max Pacioretty.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs have a salary cap crisis with Mitch Marner seeking top dollar on his next deal. They will likely lose defenseman Jake Gardiner to free agency. They would like to move defenseman Nikita Zaitsev and his remaining contract. They need to trade Patrick Marleau, who is moving his family back to the West Coast, and dump his contract. They will need to spend a good long-term asset to convince, say, Arizona to take Marleau and perhaps buy him out. Other Maple Leafs in play include forwards Nazem Kadri, Connor Brown and Kasperi Kapanen.
- Since the Philadelphia Flyers added veteran defensemen Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun to a blue line loaded with good young players, teams are inquiring about Shayne Gostisbehere. Like many of his teammates, The Ghost took a step back last season. He produced 39 points with a minus-20 rating after his 65-point, plus-10 breakout the year before.
- Another top offensive defenseman, Kris Letang, could also be in play as the Pittsburgh Penguins wrestle will salary cap issues. The team would rather trade winger Phil Kessel, but he nixed a deal to Minnesota and he could be a lot harder to move than Letang. GM Jim Rutherford would also love to move defenseman Jack Johnson, but there isn't much interest in him. The Penguins have already trade defenseman Olli Maata from a suspect defensive corps.