The bulk of St. Louis’ front line production comes from six established forwards that will be protect, and they have some solid prospects, who are expansion ineligible.
Coming off another stellar year with 39 goals and 36 assists, Vladimir Tarasenko was their top scorer. Linemate Jaden Schwartz came in second on the squad with 55 points and, in his ninth year as a Blue, Alexander Steen finished third registering 51 points while battling injuries including a broken foot. They’ll all stay.
Also a nine-year St. Louis vet, Patrik Berglund just inked a five-year $19.25M extension and finished second on the club with 23 goals.
After a three-year sojourn to Edmonton, Pittsburgh and Anaheim, David Perron’s improved all-around game featuring 46 points, and veteran leader Paul Stastny after potting a career-high in goals should all be protected. That’s six, with some debate about the seventh.
Jori Lehtera self-admittedly had a bad season and hasn’t lived up to the promise of his 44-point 2014-15 rookie year. Entering the second year of a three-year, $14.1 million contract after a 64-contest, 22-point campaign, the declining center’s $4.7M cap hit would sure look good going away. St. Louis is currently tight for cap space with slightly under $4.5M projected.
Vladimir Sobotka, finishing 2016-17 as one of the Blues’ best players after returning from the KHL could help make up for Lehtera’s contributions with his gritty, all-around effective game.
Promising expansion exempt up-and-comers Ivan Barbashev, Zach Sanford and Tage Thompson should also be able to pick up the slack.
That leaves 26-year-old wing RFA Magnus Paajarvi who somewhat produced with 13 points in 32 second-half games, wing Dmitrij Jaskin at 24 with little scoring and many healthy scratches, and Nail Yakupov’s continued plummet from 2012 first overall entry draft selection to NHL afterthought for the final spot.
At just 24, budding star Colton Parayko is not expansion eligible. Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester form a great blue line duo and will also stay. Joel Edmundson after an effective second NHL year will come back, leaving depth d-men Carl Gunnarsson and Robert Bortuzzo exposed.
Predicted protected players with annual cap hits
Patrik Berglund – $3.85M through 2022
Vladimir Sobotka – $3.5 million through 2020
David Perron – $3.75 through 2018
Jaden Schwartz – $5.35M through 2022
Paul Stastny – $7M through 2018
Alexander Steen – $5.75 through 2021
Vladimir Tarasenko – $7.5M through 2023
Jay Bouwmeester – $5.4M through 2019
Joel Edmundson – $1.05M through 2018
Alex Pietrangelo – $6.5M through 2020
Jake Allen – $4.35M through 2021
Top two options on who they would most likely lose
Yakupov and Reaves.
If St. Louis were to make a trade with Vegas to select/not select a player, who would it be and why?
The Blues would prefer Lehtera, with his cap hit and diminishing returns, start 2017-18 in gold. Signed to just two more year on that overpriced contract, and with a potential dearth of centers in the expansion draft, a few tempting additional assets shipped to Vegas might get it done.