With NHL free agency just around the corner, the Blues continue to have discussions with goalie Carter Hutton about a new contract. But it remains clear that Hutton wants to see what's out there as an unrestricted free agent.
"Yeah, I don't blame him," general manager Doug Armstrong said. "We've had conversations. He understands that we'd like him to come back. I also understand that he had his career-best year at the proper time for him as an unrestricted free agent.
"He wants to maximize that and I certainly respect that. At the end of the day, he's a businessman that has to do what's best for his family."
Hutton, 32, led the league in both goals-against average (2.09) and save percentage (.931) among goalies who appeared in more than 18 games. Despite missing time with foot and neck injuries, he appeared in 32 games and posted a 17-7-3 record.
"I told him I'd love to have him back," Armstrong said. "We've talked contract and talked concepts."
But without getting specific, Armstrong indicated that the sides aren't close to an agreement at this point.
"We're just at a different spot right now," Armstrong said. "But he's not closing the door, or are we."
The unrestricted free agency period begins July 1; June 25 is the first day that teams can "legally" talk to free agents from other teams.
Among other Blues scheduled for unrestricted free agency, Armstrong said the team has been in discussions with center Kyle Brodziak, who was very effective last season as a third_ and fourth-line player with 33 points on 10 goals and 23 assists. Brodziak was plus-13, trailing only Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz (both plus-15) in that category among Blues forwards.
"At that age, it's as much term as it is dollars," Armstrong said. "But his agent and I have spoken and there's a mutual respect for what he does and we're hoping to see if we can talk probably at the draft, or just after."
Brodziak turned 34 last month, so it's safe to assume the Blues are interested in a short-term deal _ most likely a one-year contract.
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Meanwhile, unrestricted free agent Scottie Upshall who turns 35 in October finds himself in a position similar to last year with respect to the Blues.
"With our youth in other areas, we told him he should certainly look around," Armstrong said.
While the Blues respect what Upshall can bring as a player, it would be late in the offseason if they decided to try to re-sign him. Upshall's 2017-18 season ended early with a lacerated kidney suffered March 31 against Arizona.
As for Upshall's recovery and rehab from that injury, Armstrong said, "All indications are he's doing well."
In terms of restricted free agents, Armstrong said the Blues plan to send out qualifying offers to Joel Edmundson, Robby Fabbri, Dmitrij Jaskin, Jordan Schmaltz, Nikita Soshnikov and Oskar Sundqvist next week.
"I don't expect to have much of an issue getting those guys signed," Armstrong said. "Edmundson is the one player that's gonna take a little more creativity on whether we wanna go short-term or long-term.
"I think a lot will have to do with what happens in the next two weeks as far as dollars spent either via trade or free agency. He's a couple years away from UFA (unrestricted free agency). He's a player that we want here long-term, it's just finding the sweet spot on the short or long-term deal. But if it's a short-term deal, if it's a one-year deal, I know I'll be talking to him Jan. 1 for a long-term deal."
INTEREST IN KOVALCHUK
Armstrong confirmed that the Blues had interest in Russian free agent forward Ilya Kovalchuk.
"Always looking to improve our team," Armstrong said. "We're like all teams. He's 35 years old, there's risk involved with players of that age. But he could be Jaromir Jagr. He could start slowing down at 41. Or he could come back and hit the wall. You never know.
"But there's certainly intrigue there because he's been such a dominant player internationally and he was a helluva player when he left (the NHL)."
Kovalchuk scored 417 goals in 12 NHL seasons from 2001-2013, but then spent the next five seasons playing in his home country for SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League. According to TSN Hockey, Kovalchuk has made visits to the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks.
As for the Blues, Armstrong said, "There's nothing planned yet on a visit but we certainly talked to his agent asking him to explore our situation and see if there's interest."
TARASENKO REHABBING HERE
Following surgery for a shoulder injury suffered in the Blues' season finale against Colorado, Vladimir Tarasenko's rehab is going well, and according to Armstrong, it's all taking place in St. Louis.
"He's actually spending his whole summer here," Armstrong said. "He's working hard. He saw our doctors. They're very impressed with his range of motion, so he's putting in the time on that part and now he'll be able to start doing other forms of conditioning with that shoulder which will benefit him.
"But he's putting in the hard work here and he's spending the summer here which shows how important he views the start of the season."