Let’s talk defensemen. The 2017-18 season is still a ways off, so what better time to analyze the seventh defensive position for the St. Louis Blues? It’s not the most exciting or glamorous of topics, but that’s what you’re left looking at in August.
Barring any surprises at training camp or any big performances from young defenders, let’s assume that the Blues will start the year with Pietrangelo, Parayko, Bouwmeester, Edmundson, Gunnarsson and Bortuzzo on defense. It’s possible someone may break their way into the depth chart, but for the sake of the conversation, let’s assume those spots are locked up.
The Blues recently signed Nate Prosser to a two-way contract which gives the team yet another option at the seventh defensive spot. Prosser joins Jordan Schmaltz and Chris Butler as options for that seventh position. Petteri Lindbohm is also in the conversation, but he currently needs a new contract for the 2017-18 season. Butler and Prosser are the two older options (Butler is 30, Prosser is 31) while Schmaltz and Lindbohm are quite a bit younger at 23.
As far as the seventh spot is concerned, it’s doubtful the Blues would call up any of their exciting prospects to fill it – like a Vince Dunn – as they would prefer to give them regular playing time instead of serving in a part-time role. There’s also the fact the Blues will want to give that seventh role to a player who can move between the NHL and AHL if needed. That’s not always possible, but the club won’t want to risk losing a good prospect on waivers just to occupy the bottom of the roster.
Between Prosser, Schmaltz, Butler and Lindbohm, which player will the Blues call on? There may not be a firm answer as the Blues may decide to call on multiple options depending on the scenario and which player is the hottest.
Personally, I’d give Prosser the first shot. His cap hit is pretty tidy ($625,000) and he is coming off of a season with the Minnesota Wild in which he did see some playoff action. Prosser is certainly more talented than Butler and has loads of experience over the younger Schmaltz and Lindbohm. Based purely on his play against the Blues in the playoffs, he looks like the type of player who could slide in to give a Bortuzzo or a Gunnarsson a break without missing a beat.
The Blues pretty much have their roster set, but there could be some fun competition for the final defensive pairing. The Blues may have some holes in their lineup, but they shouldn’t have any significant issues with their overall defensive depth.