It was July 22 when I asked subscribers to send in their mailbag questions. I normally try to answer them within a week, but a lot has happened since.
A couple of days later, Matthew Tkachuk was traded to Florida and The Athletic spoke with him about not coming to St. Louis. The Blues wrapped up the last of their signings, and we posed the question “Are they worse on paper than last season?” Then we spoke with David Perron about leaving town, and ranked the Top 15 disappointing departures in team history.
We didn’t forget about the mailbag, but it did get put on the back burner. As a result, some of the 100-plus questions became outdated, so a few have been trimmed out. Furthermore, a few readers mentioned having a little Tkachuk and Perron fatigue, so we’ll try to move forward as best we can.
Let’s get to the mailbag … finally.
Note: Submitted questions have been lightly edited for clarity.
What is the feeling in the Blues’ front office right now? We keep hearing how they feel this is their window, yet I don’t think you can project them as a playoff team if you get last year’s goaltending from Jordan Binnington. Is there more coming? Has their timeline changed? — Sam K.
It’s a fair question, and since Blues general manager Doug Armstrong isn’t going to lay out his honest feelings, here’s how I see it: No. 1, with the lengthy contract term for several aging players, they are in their championship now and have to win sooner than later. Can they? I don’t think they are a legit Stanley Cup team (Top 5), but while they’ve taken a step back this summer, I do believe they’re still in the next tier of teams (Nos. 6-10).
But you’re right, Binnington has to play well. If he doesn’t, there’s a chance they don’t make the playoffs. The thing is, you could say that about all the top teams. Another thing, there was nothing Armstrong could’ve done this summer to make you more comfortable about that. If you’re thinking more cap space would’ve kept Ville Husso around, that’s not true because Husso told The Athletic that Binnington’s contract situation was one of the reasons he left.
Beyond Binnington and the goaltending, the Blues are going to miss Perron. Granted, they’re up against the cap and needed a defenseman (Nick Leddy), but if you’re in your window, Perron is someone you had to re-sign, even if it took a two-year deal. You probably had to save money for Tkachuk, but there was always a chance he wasn’t coming. Now, you really have to count on Jordan Kyrou, and he may be fine, but like Binnington, he’s a guy who has to play well.
So if you’re Armstrong, you’ve explored some options (Tkachuk, trading Vladimir Tarasenko, etc.), and they didn’t work out. With Perron, you’re making a difficult decision like you did with David Backes and others, and we’ll see if that works out. I wouldn’t expect anything is coming unless it’s a Tarasenko deal. Armstrong is evolving the roster, which he’s had a lot of success with the last decade. But it only works if the veterans carry the team and young guys grow into their roles.
The Blues have an $82.5 million payroll, so ownership and the GM have a right to expect that to happen. But if it doesn’t, there will be a lot of “I told you so’s” because the one certainty is the window is open now. If the Blues don’t make the playoffs, and guys like Ryan O’Reilly, Brayden Schenn, Justin Faulk and Torey Krug get a year older, and Tarasenko walks after the season, this could become a transition period faster than many anticipated.
How does the Blues’ lineup now compare to the one that ended the 2021-22 season?
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) July 28, 2022
On one hand, it feels like the Blues believe this is a year to “soft retool,” but on the other hand they’ve made moves that make you think Armstrong believes the window is still open. Thoughts? — Ken V.
I think this describes Armstrong’s approach in a few of his 12 seasons at the helm. I’ll go back to what I wrote in my last answer “evolving the roster.” He’s trying to remain competitive now (re-signing Leddy, keeping Tarasenko) while making moves (signing Robert Thomas, not re-signing Perron) to increase the chances of staying competitive in the future.
How much of a threat are the Blues to win the Western Conference? Colorado is clearly the favorite, but I don’t see why the Blues can’t compete. — Joel E.
I don’t want to keep repeating “if players perform,” but if players perform, I think they can be one of the Top 5 teams in the West. In 2021-22, Nos. 1-5 in the conference were Colorado, Minnesota, Calgary, St. Louis and Edmonton, with L.A., Dallas and Nashville next in line. Giving the Avalanche their due respect, I don’t see why the Blues wouldn’t be in the mix with the rest of them.
Which is more likely in 2022-23, the Blues win a playoff round, or they miss them entirely? — S.J.
I would say win a round. They have a lot to prove, but they have a playoff-caliber roster and there would be some beatable teams in the opening round.
Why has Armstrong become such a weak GM? Leddy over Perron, and not even the respect of an offer to Perron? Failure to get Tkachuk from Calgary. How is Tarasenko still on this team? Armstrong should’ve got what he could for Tarasenko and then signed Perron. And quit giving every 30-year-old an eight-year contract and trade protection. — Chris D.
You may not agree with some of Amstrong’s moves, or non-moves, but you can’t argue with this: Since he took over in 2010, the Blues have the fifth-highest regular-season points-percentage (.625) and eighth-most playoff wins (50) in the NHL. That doesn’t give him a “get out of jail free” card, but probably gives him the benefit of the doubt until things play out.
Do you know how the Blues’ number of no-trade clauses compares to other teams? — Steve K.
I’m glad you asked this question because I knew the Blues had a lot, but I didn’t know where they ranked. According to PuckPedia.com, there are 84 players with full no-trade clauses, and the Blues’ seven (Tarasenko, Leddy, Faulk, Krug, Binnington, Colton Parayko, Brandon Saad) is tied for the most in the league with Tampa Bay.
Armstrong has been against no-movement clauses (which carry more weight because you can’t waive a player, send him to the minors or leave him unprotected in expansion drafts), but has given out plenty of no-trade clauses. In the past, he’s told me that he’s not opposed to NTCs because if it gets to that with a player, neither side will want the relationship and eventually part ways.
That’s up for debate because it can make it more difficult. For example, if a club wanted Tarasenko but he wouldn’t waive his NTC, then what? Then again, Armstrong could tell you, that Tarasenko wasn’t going to sign that eight-year, $60 million deal in 2015 without the NTC. And when signing a free agent, etc., perhaps you don’t get the player without the NTC, or maybe you have to pay him more.
All that said, the Blues and Lightning have handed out the most no-trade clauses, as this list illustrates …
I’d love to know what goes into a GM asking a player to waive their no-trade clause, especially when the player doesn’t want to. If I recall, Doug Weight was reluctant to waive in 2007 to go to Anaheim, and this seems relevant given all of the questions around Tarasenko, Krug and Marco Scandella. — Kevin L.
You’re correct. Former GM Larry Pleau approached Weight about waiving his no-trade clause, and when Weight declined, Pleau told him his role would diminish, so Weight OK’d the move to the Ducks, and the Blues got Andy McDonald.
I don’t have a lot of insight on this (might be worth an article one day), but GMs have told me that asking a player to waive his NTC is the last thing they do in the process. They try to work out the trade first, and then get the player’s approval, because if you don’t get the deal done, you’ve already told him you want to move him.
If Tarasenko is to be traded, what do you think his actual value would be? With the little that Max Pacioretty and Oliver Bjorkstrand went for, I think Tarasenko‘s trade value is quite a bit less than many fans think. — Mark M.
For those who didn’t see it, Vegas traded Pacioretty to Carolina for future considerations and Columbus sent Bjorkstrand to Seattle for third- and fourth-round picks. Those two moves show how hard it is to move cap when you have to, like Columbus needing the cap space for Johnny Gaudreau.
Armstrong could trade Tarasenko for nothing, but he doesn’t have to or want to. He’d rather get Tarasenko’s production in 2022-23 and let him walk next summer than not have him next season.
In the Tkachuk sweepstakes, it sounds like the Blues offered Tarasenko and Carolina offered Martin Necas. Would a Tarasenko for Necas trade be realistic? — Rhonda H.
Necas is a nice player, but his career highs are 16 goals and 41 points, so the Blues would be losing a lot of potential production. Yeah, he’s 23, so he could be part of your future, but as I mentioned in my last response, Armstrong would prefer Tarasenko’s production next season.
Where was the breakdown between Armstrong and Perron’s camp, and why does this always seem to happen with fan favorites? I realize Armstrong isn’t an emotional GM, but sometimes it’s worth throwing a guy like Perron a bone, no? — Mason V.
It appears that Armstrong knew months ago that he probably wouldn’t be bringing Perron back and was fine with that. He’s aware of Perron’s relationship with the fans, but I can guarantee that’s not on his radar. We may think about throwing bones to certain players, but Armstrong has shown that he doesn’t.
“I’m still in a little bit of shock.”
David Perron opens up to @jprutherford about leaving St. Louis for the third time – and why this time was different.
— The Athletic NHL (@TheAthleticNHL) August 1, 2022
Why would Perron pick a rebuilding Red Wings team at this stage of his career instead of a contender who could win the Stanley Cup in the next two years? — Jeff M.
When I spoke with Perron last week, he mentioned a few things — listening to Steve Yzerman’s pitch attracted him; the Red Wings staff is full of players (Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Dan Cleary, Kirk Maltby, etc.) who were long-time Red Wings and re-signing with them after two years seems like a stronger possibility; and Perron also played with Red Wings assistant GM Shawn Horcoff in Anaheim.
In light of Perron finishing his third tour of duty, is there any active former Blues player whom you could see putting on the Blue Note again? Vince Dunn, Ryan Reaves, Pat Maroon, Alex Pietrangelo, or Perron for a fourth time? — Noah C.
On this list, I’ll go with Perron, but I’ll say it’s a one-day contract to retire with the Blues.
Are the Blues developing a reputation around the league for not being loyal to their players? Is it a concern that players might not want to come here or re-sign here? I can’t imagine the Perron situation sat well with O’Reilly, who is up for a new contract. — Patrick F.
I’m not dismissing the question, but it’s a business. After Pietrangelo left, Parayko re-signed, and after Tarasenko’s trade request, Pavel Buchnevich signed. They obviously see those situations, and it’s probably a little eye-opening, but they’re worried about their own careers. As far as O’Reilly, I spoke with him recently, and he was really bummed out for Perron, but I’m not sure it will have an impact on his own situation.
Would you sign O’Reilly to a six- or seven-year deal at $6 million per year? Would he give St. Louis a discount? No-movement clause? — Sandy K.
I would re-sign O’Reilly, but not for that money. I’m thinking more along the lines of three years and a $5 million AAV. I know that sounds low, but when people were saying $5 million to $6 million per year for Perron, I believed it would be a lot less and a two-year deal ($4 million to $4.5 million AAV) would’ve gotten it done. I don’t know for sure that O’Reilly would take less, but, yes, Armstrong offering up a rare no-movement clause might make it work.
Is it rational to think that Armstrong would have asked Thomas to disclose the sexual misconduct details from the 2018 Canada World Juniors before offering him an eight-year extension? If so, we can assume that he was not involved whatsoever? — Tyler S.
Yes, the Blues did their research, and shortly after Thomas signed his eight-year extension, he tweeted a message that denied being part of the alleged incident. Kyrou, who was also a part of the World Junior team in question, also issued a statement denying any involvement.
— Robert Thomas (@RThomas_27) July 19, 2022
How would you handicap the odds that Jake Neighbors comes into training camp and solidifies a top-nine role? — Jeff C.
Assuming Neighbours plays as well as he did in last year’s camp, I really like his chances of making the opening-night roster. There’s a spot in the top nine with Perron not coming back, and if Schenn is the third-line center, I like the potential chemistry between Schenn and Neighbours. If not, he could play on the fourth line, but I like him better on the third line.
Do you think Zachary Bolduc will get a nine-game trial this season? — Noah M.
It may depend on the Blues’ cap situation (they’re currently over the $82.5 million ceiling), but I think there’s a chance Bolduc does receive the nine-game trial. If Neighbours is in St. Louis, though, I don’t think they’ll keep Bolduc the whole year, especially if Bolduc doesn’t fit into the top nine. He does have another year of junior eligibility with the Quebec Remparts (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League), and I think that’s where he’ll play next season. They’ll have a good team, and like Neighbours going back to junior last season, the Blues will want him to get that experience.
What role do you see Noel Acciari bringing to this team? — Christopher T.
I think they’re getting a solid veteran, who isn’t big (5 feet 10 inches, 209 pounds), but finishes checks and plays pretty heavy. He’s played 300 regular-season games in the NHL and 54 playoffs games, including 19 with Boston in 2019 when the Blues played the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final. He can play up the lineup, like he did in Florida with Jonathan Huberdeau, but I think the Blues are hoping he’ll help them find an identity on the fourth line.
Is Klim Kostin a bust or does he need more time to develop? What do we need to see from him this year? — Dan R.
Well, Kostin has had five years of development in the organization, and he’s 23, so I don’t know how much more time he’ll get to show he can play in the NHL. It wasn’t a good sign for him that after playing 40 games with the Blues last season, they sent him to the AHL for the rest of the season and didn’t recall him when they needed forwards. He recently signed a one-year, one-way deal for $750,000 and there will be an opportunity on the fourth line. If he can’t seize it now, I’m not sure he ever will.
Thoughts on Dom’s list that includes Parayko as one of the 10 worst contracts in the league? — Ric F.
All due respect to Dom, I didn’t really agree with it. I know he has his model that helps him come up with those evaluations, but there’s no way Parayko has one of the 10 worst contracts in the league. His ice time against top lines alone makes him worth $6.5 million per year. I know Dom was focused on the later stages of the contract, but there are a lot of deals like that. Parayko has his shortcomings, but there are worse contracts on the Blues’ roster.
Athletic subscribers: The NHL’s 10 worst contracts in 2022, according to @domluszczyszyn. They include Dallas’ Tyler Seguin, Chicago’s Seth Jones and a Blues player. #stlblues https://t.co/OZrj1GlgGI
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) July 26, 2022
What’s going on with the group of defensemen? Surely they don’t plan on keeping eight NHL defensemen on the roster? — Justin S.
Armstrong would trade Scandella if he could, but I don’t think he can. You can say, “Well, give somebody a draft pick to take him.” That would free up some needed cap space, and that’s fine, but Scandella does add some depth. What if Scott Perunovich can’t stay healthy? What if Niko Mikkola’s development stalls? What if you have an injury in your top four? It probably makes sense to move him, but what’s the plan without him?
With Scandella clearly on the trade block for the last few months, why didn’t Armstrong just buy him out before free agency? Does ownership not want to pay players to not play for the team, or is it something else? — Jacob B.
Armstrong hasn’t bought out a player in 12 years on the job, and ownership has no desire to play a player not to be on the roster, but let’s look at it. The Blues owe Scandella $6.85 million and they’d be paying him $4.27 million to go away. Yeah, it would save them about $2.7 million on the cap next season, but then he’d count $1.4 million against the cap in 2023-24 and $1.1 million in both ’24-25 and ’25-26. That space is a premium in today’s flat cap, not to mention you might need to sign somebody to replace him.
Were you surprised by how much Mikkola got for one year to walk him directly into unrestricted free agency? — Daniel G.
Yes, I was bit surprised Mikkola got $1.9 million; I was thinking closer to $1.2 million or $1.5 million. But after averaging 17 minutes per game last season and playing some top-pair minutes, he did have arbitration rights, so I see why it cost them a little more. If you’re the Blues, maybe you’d want more term, but it would’ve cost you more on his AAV to buy out a UFA year or two. This way, they keep him in the fold in 2022-23 at a semi-reasonable cost and can pay him based on his performance moving ahead.
It seems like Perunovich hasn’t gotten the credit he deserves for his play last year. What is your ideal defensive pairing for him? — Jake D.
Well, I liked Perunovich when he was in the lineup, but that was mostly because of his work on the power play. He’s still got some room to grow at five-on-five, but I think it will come. It would be fun to see him play with Faulk on a regular basis, but if everyone’s healthy, that’s going to be Krug or Leddy’s spot. So perhaps Perunovich will get his feet wet in the third pair and find some games in the top four when the opportunity presents itself.
The Blues wanted Lindgren, but Washington was offering more term (three years, $3.3 million). So Lindgren went to the Capitals, and the Blues responded by signing Greiss. As you probably know, the goalie market was pretty bleak this summer, but the 36-year-old Greiss does bring experience (347 NHL games) at an AAV ($1.25 million) that fits the team’s cap situation. There wasn’t going to be a great solution after inevitably losing Husso,
(Photo of Blues GM Doug Armstrong: Jeff Curry / USA Today)