In all my years of doing the Blues' chat, this might be the first time that it originated from the Post-Dispatch building. With laptops and wi-fi, I've chatted with you from many restaurants, parks, etc., but today, I come to you from 900 N. Tucker Blvd. I'm sure with Tuesday's big news that Paul Stastny is coming home, we've got lots to talk about, so let's get chattin' ....
Thanks to my creative co-workers for the new banner. Everybody OK with Oshie? He's going to be here awhile, right? I don't think we'll have to change it anytime soon. Regarding the shirt, oh well, you'd have to do a lot of work to make me look good and nobody has that kind of time.
Well, the third goalie for now is Jordan Binnington. But he's 20 years old and has only one game of AHL experience. Armstrong told me the other day that they're keeping an eye on the situation and may try to get a veteran into the system. If the Blues had an injury with Elliott or Allen to deal with, they would certainly bring in a stop-gap goalie. Binnington wouldn't be up long-term.
According to Armstrong and Hitchcock, they're envisioning starting out with Steen-Stastny-Backes, Schwartz-Lehtera-Tarasenko, Berglund-Sobotka-Oshie ... then you'd have a fourth line with Lapierre in the middle and Reaves on the right. Take your pick for the left-wing job between Joakim Lindstrom, Magnus Paajarvi, Chris Porter and Dmitrij Jaskin.
You're obviously referring to Stastny....Hey, it's the obvious angle. I was guilty of building it up, but that's what the story is. Having said that, I was impressed with how Stastny handled the questions about returning to St. Louis, saying that's not what led to his decision to sign with the Blues. He handled it well.
There's not necessarily a logjam at center. The Blues have a lot of players who can play both center and wing, so it may look like a jam at center. But as we speak now, the Blues are going into the season with Stastny-Lehtera-Sobotka-Lapierre as their centers. Backes is going to start out on the wing and Berglund is expected to open at left wing. The depth is really at left wing, where you have extras with Paajarvi, Porter, Lindstrom, Jaskin.
There's really no difference between the Blues' 2nd and 3rd lines, so if people want to call Schwartz-Lehtera-Tarasenko the 2nd line or Berglund-Sobotka-Oshie the 2nd line ... it really makes no difference. I understand it will when ice time comes into play, but I wouldn't anticipate much difference there either.
Did the Blues do something this week? I'm getting about 10 new questions for every one I answer.
I wrote yesterday that that was done on purpose. Armstrong said that they didn't want to get fans' hopes up, and two, Lehtera needed time to get out of his KHL contract. The Blues were very disappointed last year when he decided not to come to the NHL, and honestly I thought that ended any chance of him ever making the transition. But as Armstrong said in my blog yesterday, Lehtera admitted his mistake, had a change of heart and told Armstrong at the Olympics that he wanted to be a Blue.
It's tough to say, especially considering the Blues are tight against the cap, having about $6 million to sign both. The Blues can go over the cap as long as they're under it before opening night. Part of me thinks the club would like to make a trade before they sign the two. It would seem to me that if you sign them and go over the cap, other teams know your situation and have a little leverage in trade talks. As far as the contracts, Sobotka has made $1.3 million the past three years, and while he's not a point-producer, he's a very valuable player. I would have to think he'd get two or three years at around $3 million. Armstrong has gone on record as saying Schwartz, who has no leverage since he can't receive an offer sheet, will get his payday down the road. I would think with the numbers that he put up he could still fetch something in the $2-3 million range for a year or two.
To me, he's the guy to keep an eye on if the Blues make a deal. We all thought (myself included) that his extension before the draft was the paperwork needed to be included in a potential trade for Spezza or someone. Obviously that didn't happen, but I don't think that it means Berglund is safe and sound. The Blues do like him, especially in the lesser role that he'll be responsible for after the signings of Stastny and Lehtera. Ask yourself: do you like Berglund on the third-line left wing with Sobotka and Oshie, or do you like Paajarvi or Lindstrom (who many haven't seen yet). Perhaps you can get a first-round draft pick in 2015 (which the Blues don't have) for Berglund, but does that help you now? No. But if you think one of those other players can step into his shoes, then maybe you make that deal.... if it's out there.
I don't think so. Armstrong has said that Cole will play on the right side and Leopold and Jackman will fight it out for the left side in that pairing. With seven defensemen, and having Leopold's experience as potentially your 7th, I think the Blues like the situation they're in. So don't see them moving Leopold, especially for a younger player.
We interviewed Armstrong on the Kevin Wheeler Show on 101 ESPN this week and Armstrong said that he didn't share the same "angst" as fans and media about the lack of physicality from the Blues' defense against the Hawks. He felt that a lack of transition game was more of the problem. So that's why the move of Polak for Gunnarsson.
Who was out there? Maybe someone would say James Neal was traded to Nashville, he's scored 40 goals. True, but he's a winger. The Blues were looking for a center, a playmaker. The Blues need a scorer, but they're hoping they have one in waiting with Tarasenko and they're hoping that bringing Stastny and Lehtera in will help the wingers they have (including Backes) into bigger contributors.
I'll talk to the station and see if we can get on the air at some point this summer to discuss. Thanks for the interest, and keep in mind to read STLtoday.com and the Post-Dispatch all summer, as we'll have continued coverage.
Who knows until we get a look. Armstrong called him a 6-2, 210-pound center with "very, very soft hands" who finds his wingers. He's put up some decent offensive seasons and tournaments in Finland and in Russia, and with the Finnish national team at the Olympics and World Championships. But it's going to be all new in the NHL, with new teammates. He's older than Tarasenko was when he made the transition to North America but he's still going to have to make the adjustment.
Everything I've heard first-hand from Toronto writers is that Gunnarsson is a very dependable defenseman who does all the little things. Was it a good move? I was one who thought the Blues could be more physical on the backend. I realize the transition game is the key in today's NHL and the Blues now have four of those guys in Bouwmeester, Pietrangelo, Gunnarsson and Shattenkirk. Is that too much of a good thing? Perhaps. While I like Polak, I like the addition of Gunnarsson, but the Blues are going to have to be awfully proficient in the transition game, and use it to beat teams, so the lack of physicality doesn't become an issue.
Only the players could answer that. It was mentioned a lot by club officials as the team departed for the offseason, so I'm sure it has been on their mind. There was some difference of opinion about whether killer instinct is taught or it's inside you. Whatever the answer is, the Blues will need to address it when they return for training camp.
No, as you mentioned, the trade happened at the draft and then we turned our attention to Stastny. I am in the process of reaching out to Gunnarsson and hope to write an article about him in the coming days or weeks.
I don't have a great handle of that roster right now, but I would expect we'll see a few of both: Blues' signings and Wolves' signings.
It's a big year for everybody, including Hitch. He's obviously got the resume and the respect of everyone, but you've got to win. The Blues probably could have extended his contract beyond this year, but both sides agreed to just pick up the one-year option. I think that shows that everybody involved wants to see where this goes.
It won't matter this year. I'm told Fabbri is going back to Guelph and Barbashev to Moncton. Then we'll see what happens after next year....
No. Hitchcock keeps his lines intact all season, never alters them. I'm kidding, of course. I would venture to say that we will see every combination imaginable at some point in the season.