At the start of the 2019 calendar year, nothing was clicking for the St. Louis Blues. Ryan O’Reilly was the only consistent point-producer, a win streak was nearly unheard of, and no real solutions came easily to a roster that, on paper, was stacked.
Enter Berube. Enter Binnington. Enter Gloria. Enter
Sandman a new lease on life for this team and its fans. From January 3rd onward, the Blues would steamroll through the rest of the regular season at 30-10-5, and punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The following two months saw the Blues grind through three grueling playoff series against the Jets, Stars, and Sharks, all three of which were loaded to the brim with talent from the starting forwards to the goaltenders. The Boston Bruins were no exception, pushing the Cup Finals to hockey’s biggest stage, Game 7. Because the Blues along with 95% of American sports fans are sick of Boston winning things, this glorious occasion happened.
Dynasties have to start somewhere, and the Blues have taken that first step. But do they have what it takes to build something incredible?
For the 2019-2020 season, the Blues will be returning a large portion of the core roster that finally brought the team to glory. Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko remain under contract until 2023. Colton Parayko and David Perron remain Blues until 2022. Alexander Steen, Jaden Schwartz, and Tyler Bozak are in St. Louis until 2021. Brayden Schenn, Jay Bouwmeester, and Captain Alex Pietrangelo have one year remaining on their respective contracts.
Doug Armstrong will have his hands full this offseason with a number of RFAs. Depth forwards Ivan Barbashev, Oskar Sundqvist, Zach Sanford, and Robby Fabbri, as well as top-4 defenseman Joel Edmundson all will need contracts.
The elephant in the room, however, remains stud goaltender Jordan Binnington, who will also need a new contract this offseason.
Binnington was one of the biggest contributors, if not the MVP, for the St. Louis Blues in their Stanley Cup run. He was able to consistently make key saves for the team in front of him, something the Blues have desperately needed for years. Binnington’s new contract will likely command a large portion of the Blues’ remaining cap space, and deservedly so. The question then becomes, will he have a fantastic follow-up season? Or will he go more the route of players like Carey Price or Marc-André Fleury, who needed a few extra years to get their NHL footing back after a great rookie season and subsequent sophomore slump?
The good news for Binnington is that he will still have a quality defense in front of him. Pietrangelo, Parayko, Bouwmeester, Dunn, and Gunnarsson will all be back for at least one more year. The Blues retain the rights to Edmundson, whose contract will likely be highly dependent on Binnington’s new deal. While Pietrangelo’s contract expires after the 2019-2020 season, the Blues are likely to still be a contender which will most certainly help keep him in St. Louis. Defense is of very little concern going forward.
The forward corps will also have a number of expiring contracts over the next two seasons. While some of Schenn, Schwartz, Steen, and Bozak will likely leave via trade, free agency, or expansion draft, the Blues are well-stocked with forward prospects to fill the gaps. Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, and Klim Kostin all look to make their mark on this team in the coming years. These prospects will have the likes of O’Reilly and Tarasenko to look up to. Offense is of very little concern going forward.
The Blues have a solid core of players to carry them through the next several years. Their depth at forward and defense is among the best in the league. Jordan Binnington looked absolutely brilliant in his rookie season. The building blocks are set in St. Louis for something very special. The 2019-2020 season will be very exciting to watch as the Blues go marching in as defending Stanley Cup Champions. Until then, watch Game 7 again and let it keep soaking in.
And Play Gloria.
Photo Creds: Daily Herald, USA Today, The Point, Sports Illustrated
By Brian Adams (@Wx_Adams)