What is St. Louis Blues’ Plan if Brian Elliott Misses Time?


The St. Louis Blues suffered a potentially devastating loss in the second period of Tuesday night’s shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators, as goaltender Brian Elliott was forced to exit the game with what appeared to be a lower-body injury. The 29-year-old goalie was replaced by rookie Jake Allen, who went on to allow two goals in the third period and gave up the decisive shootout goal.

Coach Ken Hitchock elaborated very briefly on Elliott’s status after the game, as NHL.com’s Lou Korac relayed via Twitter:

If Elliott is forced to go on injured reserve, which is how things sound right now, the Blues would almost certainly bring up goaltender Jordan Binnington from their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. Binnington, a 21-year-old who was selected in the third round of the 2011 draft, began the year clearly seeming to be the backup behind veteran Matt Climie, a former NHLer who is signed exclusively with the Wolves and is not the Blues’ property. In recent weeks, though, Binnington’s time has increased, and he’s made the most out of it.

Through nine games, eight of which he has started, Binnington is 6-2 with a 1.89 goals against average and 92.5 percent save percentage. He’s been rotating games with Climie in recent weeks, and he notched his first AHL shutout on November 12.

Despite that recent success, Binnington has a very limited track record in professional hockey. Due to the presence of both Allen and Climie last year, Binnington spent the large majority of his first professional season in the ECHL with the Kalamazoo Wings. He played pretty well, going 23-13-3 over 40 games with a 2.35 goals against average and a .922 save percentage, but ultimately stats in that league don’t really translate to the NHL because the level of competition is so much lower. He did take the win in his one start with Chicago last year, allowing three goals while collecting 34 saves on 37 shots.

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If Binnington ends up underperforming or if the Blues simply decide that he’s not ready to play in the NHL, there are a few notable free agent goalies still available, including Ilya Bryzgalov, Martin Brodeur, and Tomas Vokoun. With that said, the Blues only have about $2.5 million of available cap space, so it may be a struggle to fit one of these experienced goaltenders into the budget and still have room to add extra skaters should more injuries occur.

Of course, we don’t even know if Elliott is that seriously hurt that he’ll miss time. But assuming he is, the most reasonable solution for now seems to be to let Allen carry the load, with Binnington filling in when necessary—for example, during sets of back-to-back games—and hope that the young netminder has enough confidence to keep the Blues’ offense in games.