St. Louis Blues Make Decisions on Restricted Free Agents, Re-Sign Jeremy Welsh


The St. Louis Blues were faced with making decisions on their upcoming restricted free agents on Monday, and they decided to tender contracts for 2015-16 to six of them while rejecting two, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Jeremy Rutherford:

The moves to keep Tarasenko, Allen, and Bortuzzo in the fold were not at all surprising, as each player factors prominently into the Blues’ plans for 2015-16. The biggest drama in this whole situation will be seeing what kind of moves the Blues make in order to create cap space for Tarasenko and Allen’s predicted increases in pay.

Beach, Hakanpaa, and Paajarvi were all uncertainties to be retained due to the fact that they ended last season in the minors, but the team obviously sees enough NHL potential in all of them so that they were retained as organizational depth. Hakanpaa, a 6-foot-5, 218-pound defenseman, still has major potential, even though he has not converted on it over his first two full professional seasons in North America, while Beach could be a backup option as a fourth-line agitator if Steve Ott or Ryan Reaves goes down during the season.

More from St. Louis Blues

Perhaps the most notable move was the Blues choosing to tender a contract to forward Magnus Paajarvi. The 24-year-old Paajarvi, who was acquired for forward David Perron in 2013, seemed to be on the outs with the organization in 2014-15 after being waived and moved off the NHL roster at midseason. However, after clearing waivers and going down to AHL Chicago, he seemingly resurrected his game, scoring 11 goals with 18 assists over 36 regular season games with the Wolves and adding three goals and an assist over five games in the playoffs.

Paajarvi made $1.4 million this past season, and while he’s likely in for a salary decrease in 2015-16, it’s still interesting that the Blues decided to keep him instead of just cutting the cord. The decision likely means that Paajarvi will factor into their NHL plans in some way, shape, or form in the coming season.

Shields, a former sixth-rounder, was low on the organizational depth chart and was always a long shot to make it in the NHL, but the addition of younger, more legitimate prospects like Petteri Lindbohm, Colton Parayko, and Jordan Schmaltz over the past year sealed his fate.

Wannstrom, meanwhile, ended up being a pretty significant disappointment. After being picked in the second round of the 2010 draft–44th overall–Wannstrom came over to America in 2012-13 and was frequently relegated to the press box over the course of his AHL career. Over three seasons in North America, Wannstrom played in just 89 AHL games, scoring nine goals and tallying 16 assists. He was also demoted to the ECHL in the first two of those seasons and had nine goals and three assists over three games there.

In other news, the club re-signed forward Jeremy Welsh, who played 75 games for the AHL Chicago Wolves during his first season in the Blues organization in 2014-15, scoring 20 goals and adding 21 assists. Welsh, who has 25 games of NHL experience spread out over three seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes and Vancouver Canucks, may be in a position to move himself up the organizational ladder this offseason, depending on how much depth the club accumulates in free agency. With depth forwards like Marcel Goc, Olli Jokinen, and Colin Fraser on the way out, Welsh may be closer to the front of the line for an NHL call-up in 2015-16. With that said, players like Ty Rattie, Robby Fabbri, and Paajarvi also have a chance to be in the picture, so Welsh will likely have to make another positive impression at Chicago if he wants a chance to make it back to the NHL.

Next: Blues Trade for Sharks Defenseman Konrad Abeltshauser