The lineup will have a significantly different look this year, mostly because the two players who most embodied the Blues’ previous style, David Backes and Troy Brouwer, have departed in free agency. Other than David Perron, it’s uncertain who will take over their responsibilities, but it’s a sure thing that the team will lean on speed and skill to get them by more than they ever have before under Ken Hitchcock. They already began to do that to a certain degree last year, phasing out fourth-line wingers Ryan Reaves and Steve Ott in favor of more highly-skilled players such as Dmitrij Jaskin, Scottie Upshall, Ty Rattie, and Magnus Paajarvi, and we should see that transformation extend to the top-nine group of forwards this season.
I’m going out on a limb here and making two major assumptions: first, that Vladimir Sobotka ultimately won’t show up and will remain with his KHL team for yet another season as his contract holds him hostage in Europe, and secondly, that the front office will choose to send Magnus Paajarvi to the AHL once again despite the fact that he has a one-way contract and instead keep Chris Porter, who’s coming to camp as a professional tryout player.
Ken Hitchcock has made no secret about his admiration for the way Porter does things, and it only helps the 32-year-old forward that new assistants Mike Yeo and Rick Wilson worked with him last season in Minnesota. In terms of finances, it wouldn’t be optimal to add Porter and pay Paajarvi $700,000 to play in the minor leagues. But if the Blues were already willing to send Paajarvi to the minors and pay Sobotka $2.7 million, why not bring in Porter on an affordable two-way deal if he’s a better fit with the team’s playing style this year?