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If Blues have to go to Plan B, who's available?

If Blues have to go to Plan B, who's available?

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There has been no word Thursday on whether Blues forward David Backes and/or Troy Brouwer will be re-signing with the team that they helped guide to the Western Conference finals in 2015-16.

That means with the NHL free-agency period opening at 11 a.m. (St. Louis time) on Friday, the Blues are preparing for the possibility of Plan B.

Backes and Brouwer are durable, combining to play in 201 of a possible 204 games last season, including playoffs (Backes missed three regular-season games, while Brouwer played in every game all season).

They ranked Nos. 2-3 on the club in goals during the regular season, with Backes' 21 ranking second and Brouwer's 18 tied for third. They were also productive in the postseason, with Backes netting seven goals and 14 points and Brouwer posting eight goals and 13 points in the same number of games.  

The Blues would also need to replace their veteran leadership. Backes has been with the organization for 10 seasons, the last five as captain. Brouwer's only season with the club was last year, but as the only player with a Stanley Cup on the roster, he left an impression with his experience.

So if one or both decides to sign elsewhere, what would the Blues do to re-load? Well, here is a look at the top free-agent forwards that will be available when shopping opens on Friday:

KYLE OKPOSO

Team: New York Islanders

Age: 28

Height, Weight: 6-0, 217

Position: Right wing

Shoots: Right

2015-16 stats: 79 games, 22 goals, 42 assists, minus-4

Last contract: $2.8 milllion (average annual value)

ANDREW LADD

Team: Chicago Blackhawks

Age: 30

Ht, Wt: 6-3, 200

Position: Left wing

Shoots: Left

2015-16 stats: 78 games, 25 goals, 21 assists minus-13 (includes stats with Winnipeg)

Last contract: $4.4 million 

MILAN LUCIC

Team: Los Angeles

Age: 28

Ht, Wt: 6-3, 233

Position: Left wing

Shoots: Left

2015-16 stats: 81 games, 20 goals, 35 assists, plus-26

Last contract: $6 million

LOUI ERIKSSON

Team: Boston

Age: 30

Ht, Wt: 6-2, 183

Position: Left wing

Shoots: Left

2015-16 stats: 82 games, 30 goals, 33 assists, plus-13

Last contract: $4.25 million

MIKKEL BOEDKER

Team: Colorado Avalanche

Age: 26

Ht, Wt: 6-0, 211

Position: Right wing

Shoots: Left

2015-16 stats: 80 games, 17 goals, 34 assists, minus-33 (includes stats with Arizona)

Last contract: $3.75 million

***

ASSISTANT ADDED

The Blues will have an extra assistant on Ken Hitchcock's staff in 2016-17, adding Steve Thomas to the group on Tuesday.

Thomas, 52, has been with Tampa Bay the past two seasons, helping the Lightning advance to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015 and back-to-back trip to the Eastern Conference finals. The longtime NHL forward had been working with the Bolts forwards, but earlier this month it was announced that his contract was not being renewed.

Thomas' addition next season will give the Blues six assistants. The list will also include Mike Yeo, who is the team's 'coach in waiting,' and Rick Wilson, who join holdovers on the staff, Ray Bennett, Jim Corsi and Sean Ferrell.

In other coaching news within the organization, the Chicago Wolves, the Blues' affiliate in the American Hockey League, named Craig Berube as the team's new head coach on Monday. Berube had interviewed to be an assistant with the Blues before taking the Wolves' job. It is a two-year agreement.

***

JACKMAN BUYOUT

Former Blues defenseman Barret Jackman will be bought out of his contract with the Nashville Predators. 

The Preds took the procedural step Monday of placing Jackman, 35, on waivers without the purpose of the buyout. He will become an unrestricted free agent on Friday.

After a 13-year career with the Blues, in which he ascended to No. 2 in games played with 803, Jackman signed a two-year, $4 million contract with Nashville last summer. He played 73 games for the Predators in the first year, and was a plus-1 with 76 penalty minutes while averaging 13:51 of ice time. 

The Preds, though, have decided to buy out the second year of the deal. If Jackman clears waivers Friday, the team will carry a salary-cap hit of $666,666 cap hit the next two seasons, according to Generalfanager.com, but save approximately $1.3 million. 

St. Louis Blues v Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Andrew Ladd redirects a shot past St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen for a power play goal in the second period during a game between the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesay, March 9, 2016, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Photo by Chris Lee, clee@post-dispatch.com

 

 

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Jeremy Rutherford is the lead Blues beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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