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Blues and Bruins practice before the Stanley Cup

Blues Pat Maroon stretches on Sunday, May 26, 2019, before practice on media day before the start of the Stanley Cup finals at TD Garden in Boston, Ma. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

Last year at this time, the rumor was no one wanted to play in St. Louis,  whether it was John Tavares, Artemi Panarin, or Jeff Skinner.

This year, it looks like no one wants to leave. Veteran defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarsson have taken less money to re-sign. Pat Maroon quite likely is pondering a similar decision.

Overall, all indications point to a quiet July 1 for the Blues this year, the league’s traditional start of free agency. As such it will be nothing like last season, when the Blues were major players.

By early afternoon last July 1, the Blues had signed free agents David Perron, Tyler Bozak and Chad Johnson. It looked like they were done for the day, and as if to prove it, the team held a conference call with general manager Doug Armstrong to discuss those signings.

Several hours later, the Blues announced another conference call with Armstrong, this time to discuss the trade with Buffalo for Ryan O’Reilly.

Nine days later, came yet another move: the late addition of hometown product Pat Maroon via free agency. Late, because almost all of the NHL’s free agent frenzy takes place on just one day every year — July 1. (Maroon also made a late agent switch which may have delayed last year’s decision.)

Even with the usual caveat that you never say never with Armstrong, nothing like last year is expected to take place this year with the Blues. And why should it?

Last year at this time, the Blues were coming off a season in which they missed the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons — and by one measly point. Armstrong had to do something and he responded by shaking up the team’s forward lines.

This year, of course, the Blues are 2 ½ weeks removed from winning the Stanley Cup. The emphasis is on keeping as much of that squad together as possible and Armstrong already is well down a path toward achieving this goal.

Maroon’s status is about the only question entering free agency. To use the description he employed at the Blues’ June 15 rally under the Gateway Arch, Maroon became a “hometown hero” after his goal in double overtime gave the Blues a Game 7 victory in Round 2 of the playoffs against Dallas.

By all accounts, the Oakville High product took a lesser offer to play for his hometown team and be with his son Anthony on a one-year, $1.75 million deal a year ago.

According to those familiar with the Maroon contract picture this time around, it’s a fluid situation with lots of balls in the air. Several teams have expressed interest in Maroon, but the Blues remained in the mix with conversations ongoing between Maroon and the team.

After a painfully slow start — Maroon had only two goals through Christmas — he had six goals in his last 15 regular-season games and three goals in the Blues’ first two playoff series. The Maroon-Tyler Bozak-Robert Thomas line was strong down the stretch during the regular season and sparkled in the second-round series against the Stars.

Maroon provided a physical presence down low and wasn’t afraid to mix it up, as witnessed by his team-high six fights. With respect to his teammates, he was a positive presence on the ice and in the locker room.

It all added up to 10 goals, 18 assists and minus-3 in the regular season; and three goals, four assists and minus-3 in the playoffs for the player known as the “Big Rig.”

So how much is that worth to the Blues? Or on the open market? . . . Two million dollars. . .$2.5 million? Will Maroon be willing to stay in St. Louis for less money than he could get from another team? Is he seeking more than a one-year deal this time? We’ll know the answer in a couple of days.

Otherwise, there’s very little happening in terms of Blues unrestricted free agents. Goalie Jared Coreau and defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon spent the entire season in the minor leagues.

Forward Chris Thorburn and defenseman Chris Butler spent almost all of last season with San Antonio in the AHL. Defenseman Michael Del Zotto played in only seven games after coming to St. Louis from Anaheim in a trade-deadline deal.

That’s all, folks. So unless you just have to know what happens with Maroon — and there’s no guarantee he decides on Monday — this might be a good day to mow the lawn or head to the pool if you’re not working.

The Blues do have seven restricted free agents of note in Ivan Barbarshev, Sammy Blais, Jordan Binnington, Joel Edmundson, Robby Fabbri, Zach Sanford and Oskar Sundqvist. But they are under no pressure to sign Monday.

The Blues have made qualifying offers to all seven, which gives them the right to match any outside offers. But outside offers for restricted free agents in the NHL happen about as often as the Blues win the Stanley Cup. They’re rare.

When all is said and down, the Blues’ remaining salary cap space of $15.5 million could be enough to re-sign Maroon, all seven of those RFAs, and perhaps even extend the contract of either defenseman Alex Pietrangelo or forward Brayden Schenn this year. Both are entering the final year of their deals.


Jeff Gordon's grades for the Blues players

Jim Thomas covers Blues hockey for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.