Rounding up the hot topics from hockey writer Jim Thomas' chat with Blues fans.
TOREY TIME FOR STL
QUESTION: I love the (Torey) Krug signing; especially the (average annual value). I think he will be the steal of this year’s free agency and give the Blues much-needed grit on the blue line. Hopefully he rubs off a little on (Colton) Parayko.
JIM T.: If you were going to have to part ways with (Alex) Pietrangelo, Krug is one heck of a consolation prize. You know the scouting reports. He's feisty, skates well, can quarterback the power play, and is quick getting the puck out of the zone.
QUESTION: Did Pietrangelo get everything he asked for from Vegas? Did he compromise on any of his demands from the Blues?
JIM T.: Well, he got a ton of signing bonus money ($35M), a full no-movement clause, and $8.8M a year in a place where there's no state income tax. So I don't know what else he could've been asking for other than a free babysitting service for his four children.
QUESTION: Seems like the Blues’ Cup team was always described as heavy and a grind to play against. But since winning it, the Blues traded 6-4 (Joel) Edmundson for 6-foot (Justin) Faulk and now just replaced 6-3 Pietrangelo with 5-9 Krug. Doesn’t this change our makeup quite a bit? And isn’t this just going to make things harder for Binnington in front of the net?
JIM T.: That’s a fair point, especially on defense. But Krug isn’t afraid to hit people (ask Thomas). Pietrangelo was not what you’d call a physical player. And up front, you’ve added an old-school style enforcer in Clifford. So I still think the Blues can retain most of their heavy style.
CAN KLIM KOSTIN CUT IT?
QUESTION: Any news on (Klim) Kostin? He was talked up, looked really good in his brief appearance, but it seems like he's hardly mentioned these days. Any chance he shows up this next season?
JIM T.: The Blues loaned Kostin to Avangard Omsk of the Kontental Hockey League, with the provision that he could be returned to the Blues once the NHL preseason camp started. It was a move just to get him some playing time. He has zero goals, two assists and is minus-1 in seven games so far in the KHL. Kostin is just 21, but he's had 3 seasons in the AHL now. It's time for him to make a major push for a roster spot as a power forward.
CONTRACT CONUNDRUMS COMING
QUESTION: I will miss Petro, but the Blues are going to have some bigger contracts coming up, and it's better to lose from a place that we have depth than one of our forwards.
JIM T.: Not as many big contracts as you would think. (Jaden) Schwartz and (Jordan) Binnington are the big ones -- they're both unrestricted free agents after this coming season. (Zach) Sanford and (Ivan) Barbashev will be restricted free agents who are arbitration eligible. (Robert) Thomas, and perhaps (Vince) Dunn, will be who aren't arbitration eligible.
(Tyler) Bozak, (Alexander) Steen and (Carl) Gunnarsson are all scheduled to be UFAs after this season, but you'd have to think they won't be brought back. (Jacob) De la Rose will be arbitration eligible, but again it's certainly not a must that he returns for the '21-22 campaign.
Even with the additions of Krug and (Kyle) Clifford, the Blues are still more than $25M under the cap for the '21-22 season. And the Blues will likely lose someone (and that salary) in the expansion draft. So they're in pretty decent shape for 2021-22.
QUESTION: Let's play devil’s advocate here, and Binner plays similar to how he did in Round 1. Are they Blues comfortable to hand the reins over to (Ville) Husso if needed?
JIM T.: That's one of the key questions for the team entering the season. Looks like that's how they'll start. But you have to think Husso won't have the longest leash in the world.
WHAT'S THE WORD ON BOUWMEESTER?
QUESTION: Any information on (Jay) Bouwmeester and how he's doing? I'm surprised he hasn't made any announcements concerning his future.
JIM T.: Armstrong has said all along they're leaving that up to Bouwmeester in terms of any announcement he might want to make. I've tried to reach Bouwmeester a couple of times -- most recently when I was in the Edmonton hub during the playoffs -- but he never replied.
QUESTION: Any possible way for the Blues to enhance the offense without pulling on a wishbone and hoping current personnel score more goals next year?
JIM T.: You never say never with Armstrong, but it looks like that's what's going to happen. Remember last year, the Blues had (Vladimir) Tarasenko for only 10 regular-season games yet still had their highest goals per game average (3.14) since the 1994-95 season. It may be asking a lot to expect lightning to strike twice.
WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR SCHWARTZ?
QUESTION: Do the Blues look at extending Schwartz? I just think there has got to be something better out there for the money. He’s just too streaky.
JIM T.: I think you've got to bring him back. Yeah, he's streaky. But so are a lot of other players. He's had at least 19 goals in five of his last seven seasons and has been one of the Blues’ top performers in each of the last two playoffs. Despite his reputation for being injury-prone, he played in all 71 games this past season. Despite his small stature, he'll work the corners and go to the front of the net. He has quickness and tenacity. He's in the prime of his career at 28. That's my case.