Under normal circumstances, it would be way too early to even try to take a guess at an NHL team’s regular season roster composition after the first day of free agency. But St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said after Tuesday’s acquisitions of centers Paul Stastny and Jori Lehtera that his roster is “completed as of now”. So we’ll take Armstrong at his word and try to predict what the best roster is for the Blues heading into next season:
The toughest decision with this process is leaving 21-year-old winger Dmitrij Jaskin off the opening roster. Though Armstrong had previously said that Jaskin would have a “spot to lose” in the 2014-15 lineup, the retention of Berglund and the additions of Stastny and Lehtera make it extremely difficult for Jaskin to find a spot. Ultimately, it boils down to a competition between Jaskin and players like Reaves and Paajarvi. Paajarvi’s older and more experienced, and Reaves recently signed a new contract that pays him over $1 million per year. It doesn’t make sense to have either of those guys sitting in the press box night after night.
Jaskin could conceivably take the spot of Lindstrom or Porter, but both of them are on one-way contracts, meaning it makes a lot more financial sense to have Jaskin playing consistently in the minors while those two provide insurance in the NHL, rather than having Jaskin waste away and having to pay one of the veterans an NHL salary in the minors.
Extra Defenseman: Jordan Leopold
There’s not too much suspense in this group. The Blues have seven NHL-caliber D-men under contract, and they’ve stated that they want Cole to have a legitimate shot as one of the top six defensemen. Therefore, Leopold is the only guy who fits in the seventh spot. Things could be different near the start of the season if Gunnarsson’s recovery from hip surgery takes longer than expected.
These two will battle for the bulk of the starting time, and it’s likely that they’ll both get significant opportunities during 2014-15. The two-goalie system that the Blues employed over the past several years with Jaroslav Halak and Elliott always ran smoothly, and there’s no reason to think that it can’t with Elliott and Allen.