It’s been a particularly brutal summer in St. Louis. With temperatures reaching 108 degrees without adding in the overall heat index, hockey fans are longing for the cool months of hockey season perhaps more now than ever before.
Hockey season is still a ways off, but it’s never too early to start talking about the Blues. Content on this website has been relatively light as the Blues mostly have their roster set, so now might be a good time to look back and offer a few thoughts on their summer and the year ahead.
1. Colton Parayko is worth every penny of his new deal. I talked about that in further detail here, so I won’t spend too much time talking about it in this post. Simply, he’s awesome and the Blues locked him in at a pretty fair rate.
2. How exciting is a healthy Robby Fabbri returning to the lineup? The whole “it’s as good as a trade” expression is silly, but having Fabbri back in the mix is a huge addition. His offensive skills were sorely missed at the end of last season.
3. Speaking of Fabbri, what kind of contract will he demand? The 2017-18 season is the final year of his current contract and he’ll be due a big raise over his current $894,167 cap hit. Thankfully, the Blues should have some money coming off of the books and should be able to meet his contract demands.
4. The addition of Beau Bennett flew mostly under the radar, hidden beneath larger moves by the team this summer, but he could end up being a significant factor for the team this summer. I’m not trying to oversell Bennett, but he could be a sneaky offensive weapon. He could provide the type of offensive depth the Blues have been lacking when their primary weapons go down.
5. OK, we all know the new scoreboard is the best addition the Blues will make this summer. It won’t beat any of the largest screens in the NHL, but any kind of upgrade will be welcome over the old board.
6. Speaking of arena upgrades, how will the new theater box seats influence attendance and overall capacity? The new seats will eat up a section of the lower bowl and will provide a more upscale experience seemingly comparable to the current club level seating. The seats should be a touch larger and its likely the new section will shrink Scottrade Center’s listed capacity.
7. Just how good will Klim Kostin be, realistically? He’s already at the center of a ton of hype and is probably a bit overvalued at this stage of his career. That’s not to say he won’t develop and be awesome, but it’s probably a bit too early to expect anything big at the NHL level. It’s best to keep your expectations in check or risk facing disappointment.
8. It’s still crazy to think that Jori Lehtera won’t be with the Blues in 2017-18. It’s even crazier to think that he helped bring in a player who could be a big asset – Brayden Schenn.
9. Speaking of Schenn, he’s my vote for most exciting summer addition to the roster. He scored 51 goals over the past two seasons and could be a great presence on the team’s second line. He’ll hopefully take some pressure off the top line while also chipping in on the power play.
10. Darren Pang has a new contract and will be heard on Fox Sports Midwest for the next three years. That’s awesome.
11. Paul Stastny is my player to watch in 2017-18. Not because he’s expected to do anything particularly awesome, but because he’s in the final year of his current contract and needs to absolutely bring it. He currently holds a $7 million annual cap hit and his new deal should fall far below that current value. Will that next deal be with the Blues? That’ll be determined this season.
12. Another player who needs to bring it, albeit not on the same level as Stastny, is Dmitrij Jaskin. As the Blues have evolved and have acquired younger, more intriguing assets, Jaskin’s spot on the roster might be in jeopardy. At 24, Jaskin has time left to turn it on, but he’s facing long odds given the team’s new depth.
13. Alexander Steen is a player who could be hitting a crossroads in his career. He’s 33 and is still under contract through 2020-21, but his play over the past couple seasons has been shifting to that of a play-maker rather than a goal-scorer. Since 2013-14, Steen’s goal totals have been as follows: 33, 24, 17, 16. The Blues have evolved over those years and Steen’s role has evolved too, but it is impossible to overlook his shrinking goal totals. It’ll be interesting to see how well he hold up as he enters his mid-30s.
14. Will a young defenseman force the Blues to make a tough decision on Carl Gunnarsson? Or Robert Bortuzzo? Fans are already clamoring for Vince Dunn to make the jump, but it’s tough to envision the Blues benching a player with a cap hit over $1 million to give Dunn – or another young defensive prospect – a shot. Time will tell.
15. How will the bizarre AHL situation with the Vegas Golden Knights play out? It’s far from ideal and that’s being kind. The Blues will have relatively little control over how their players on the AHL roster will be handled and then they’ll need to spread out their remaining assets throughout different minors teams. Thankfully, it sounds like this ugly situation will only last one year.
16. The Blues have a little over $3 million in cap space as of the date of this article. That doesn’t leave a ton of room to do much, but they could theoretically pick up a veteran piece for around a million if they felt the need and the situation called for some reinforcements.
17. Can Jake Allen carry all of that success from the playoffs into a new season? The coaching change elevated his game – and the team’s game – to a higher level, but can he do it again? The Blues could really use more stability in goal.
18. The promotion of Mike Yeo got the Blues rolling, but what will he do when given training camp and a full season to share his influence? Coaching changes inevitably give a team a spark, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens now that Yeo is the norm. At the very least, hopefully the new voices on the coaching staff help the Blues find a bit more creativity on the power play.
19. The Blues have some great veteran voices on their coaching staff (Barret Jackman, Steve Ott). They seem like they’ll be a great addition as they have a ton of relevant experience, both in hockey and with the Blues. Some may question their experience, but there’s no question they’ll garner respect from the younger skaters.
20. Once again, it’s that time of the year where I’m excited about the Blues. I’ve already said I have no idea what to expect from the Blues this season, but that could be said just about every year. Blues fans are eternal optimists, maintaining hope despite years and years of disappointment. As you can tell by the list above, there’s a lot to talk about and that’s part of what makes this so much fun.
21. Bonus item. Bring on the 2017-18 season! Let’s go Blues!