Here are the highlights from our weekly chat with Post-Dispatch readers.
Q: Are the Blues overloaded with good players to the point that they’ll lose some to waivers?
A: Potentially. The only player who could be in the roster mix who does not have to clear waivers is Klim Kostin. (Dakota Joshua doesn't have to, either, but I don't see him getting a spot out of camp.) So if the Blues were to get another defenseman, or if one of the (professional tryout options) was to make the team, someone is going to have to go on waivers. Someone like Mackenzie MacEachern could slip through. I don't know if either Jake Walman or Niko Mikkola would. If Kostin doesn't make the team out of camp, it's most likely because he doesn't have to clear waivers, and that's the path of least resistance. And that's another issue if the Blues go with a streamlined roster to save cap space. They have run out of waiver-exempt players.
Q: Do we know if the Blues are 100% vaccinated? Will anyone in the media have the guts to ask?
A: We've already asked the question, and the team is 100% vaccinated, according to Doug Armstrong. So I guess we did have the guts. Heck, I asked the question at the end of last season.
Q: With the Blues roster already at 14 on CapFriendly, not including Klim Kostin, how does he make the team?
A: I'm in the camp that Kostin has no more to gain by playing in the AHL, and it's time for him to be in the NHL. The 14 on CapFriendly include Oskar Sundqvist, who won't be ready at the start of the season. And Mackenzie MacEachern's spot is tenuous, plus he’s more likely to get through waivers. How much Kyle Clifford plays this season is uncertain, and I think it wouldn't make sense to play him over Kostin, at least until they know what they've got with Kostin. Same goes with Tyler Bozak. After all this time, Kostin has got to play.
Q: So the Blues are starting camp with Vladimir Tarasenko on the roster. Is Doug Armstrong biding his time until the right trade comes along?
A: The trade market isn't there for him, so he's going to start the season with the Blues and there's a decent chance he's around for a bit. If he plays well and all is going smoothly, there's less incentive for the Blues to trade him. And if he doesn't play well and things aren't going smoothly, it will be even harder to trade him. Ultimately, a deal makes sense, but deals in-season for players with high cap hits are even more difficult to make than in the offseason.
Q: What do you see regarding Scott Perunovich, short term? He’ll be rotating with Robert Bortuzzo, getting his feet wet.
A: Perunovich has shown in Traverse City that time off hasn't hurt him much, but let's see how he does against players he isn't a couple years older than, or undrafted free agents. If he's rotating with Bortuzzo, then Niko Mikkola or Jake Walman is gone. I think ultimately a little bit of playing in the AHL against players his age and older will help. But also, the Blues defense doesn't really need another offensive defenseman right now.
Q: Do James Neal or Michael Frolik have a good chance of making the team? I know they wouldn't be here if there was no chance, but what's the odds that one makes the team?
A: I'd put the odds really low. The Blues are pretty well set at forward, so bumping one of them out won't be easy, and you also have the dynamic of letting go of a younger player with years ahead of him for an older player who's got one year with the team. If you sign Neal or Frolik and let someone like Zach Sanford go, then in a year you've got none of them. Doug Armstrong is looking for competition in camp, and also as a favor to these guys, helping them possibly get a job somewhere else by showing off their games in action. Unless there are injuries in camp, which you can never rule out, it will be a tough climb for them to make the team.
Q: The Colton Parayko contract reflects that of a good defenseman, but not a superstar. At this point is it fair to say he is who he is, with no more aggressive gear or next offensive level to be added?
A: The main reason to say that Parayko is not yet who he could be is that the past two years haven't matched the earlier ones. If his play last season was like it had been earlier, then he'd have gotten one of those $9 million defenseman contracts. But it wasn't, which is why he's getting $6.5 million. Last year he was slowed by his back problems. Who knows what the problem was the year before. If the Blues are going to be a high-quality team, they need Parayko to be that No. 1 type defenseman. I think his offensive level is what you've seen when he's been at his best. But defensively, he can be a beast back there, moreso than he has been the past two seasons. He's going to get the chance to play a lot of minutes.
Q: The Blues used to have one of the top-scoring defensive units in the league, but with Alex Pietrangelo and Vince Dunn gone do they still have the horses to get that attack from the defense?
A: The loss of Dunn offensively will be something the Blues will have to deal with, especially on the power play. Torey Krug's game picked up as the season went on, and Justin Faulk actually had a subpar offensive season from an analytics standpoint. Jake Walman may not be a scorer, but I think he can help create things, definitely more than Niko Mikkola can. At some point last season, I was working on a story on the Blues’ defenseman and how well they were scoring, but before we could run it they stopped scoring. If they can re-create the start of last season, they can make a dent offensively. But the first issue for the defensemen is being better on defense.
Q: Will Ville Husso have to be a big part of this team if the Blues are going to have a successful season, especially with the compressed schedule and back to back games? Is he up to the task, and how many games will he play?
A: I'd say 20 to 25 games, though so many factors could come into play on that. Assuming Jordan Binnington isn't on the Canadian Olympic team, he's going to get a three-week break midseason, so that will keep him fresh. The Blues have shown they are content with playing him a lot.
Husso showed at the end of last season that his game was progressing, and if he can put that aggravating habit of giving up a goal on an early shot, that will help a lot. I don't see the Blues hitting the market for a backup. Unless the wheels come off Husso in the first couple weeks, Joel Hofer in Springfield will get the first shot. He didn't get a lot of work last season because of the circumstances and can use a bit more work, but he's getting close to being ready, which is something else that will push Husso. Joel Hofer and Colten Ellis are not far behind. And in Husso's defense, I've seen him play some exceptional games in preseasons past. He just has to consistently do that in the regular season now.