The Blues are expected to trim around 20 players from their training camp roster within the next couple days.
As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Jeremy Rutherford relayed following the Blues’ 3-1 preseason loss to the Dallas Stars on Monday night, the St. Louis Blues are expected to make mass cuts over the next few days, moves that will coincide with the returns of Dmitrij Jaskin, Colton Parayko, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jori Lehtera, and Patrik Berglund from the World Cup of Hockey. While the Blues’ roster currently includes 57 players, Rutherford wrote that it will be whittled down to the 30s by Thursday.
While there are only a couple spots where there seem to be legitimate competition on this year’s Blues roster, there seems to be more competitive players in this year’s camp than there’s been in a long while. Cuts will be difficult for GM Doug Armstrong and head coach Ken Hitchcock, and even with the players who are already destined to begin the season in the minor leagues, it will be a shame to deny the opportunity for more game action to several players who have impressed in the early going.
A few forwards who are logical options to be sent back to AHL Chicago or reassigned to their amateur clubs: Andrew Agozzino, Ivan Barbashev, Conner Bleackley, Samuel Blais, Jordan Caron, Landon Ferraro, Alex Friesen, Glenn Gawdin, Filip Helt, Danny Kristo, Jordan Kyrou, Mackenzie Maceachern, Adam Musil, and Justin Selman.
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Even though he collected five points in the Blues’ first preseason game, Kenny Agostino is probably also an option to be reassigned to Chicago. While Ferraro and Caron are perhaps darkhorse roster candidates and could stick around a bit longer than everyone else, the Blues will now need to start getting their regular forward corps ready and determine who’s going to fill the last couple forward spots among T.J. Galiardi, Eric Nystrom, Magnus Paajarvi, Chris Porter, and Ty Rattie. There’s not going to be many more opportunities for the guys listed above to participate in preseason games, so it’s best to send them back to the minors as their respective teams’ training camps begin and get them up to speed for their minor-league seasons.
Since the best outcome that Yan Stastny can realistically hope for is probably an AHL contract with the Wolves, it’s also very possible that he could be one of the cuts over the next couple days. He did play well in his first preseason game, though, so maybe he’ll get another game for the Blues to gauge how much ability he has left.
Some defensemen that seem likely to be victims of the roster trim: Vince Dunn, Morgan Ellis, Brad Hunt, Jordan Schmaltz, Tommy Vannelli, and Kevin Tansey
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For what it’s worth, the Blues may need more blueline depth for the entirety of camp since Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester will both be playing in the finals of the World Cup of Hockey with Team Canada. But the staff will want to see what it has in pro tryout Mike Weber, as well as setting up an early pecking order among Robert Bortuzzo, Chris Butler, and Petteri Lindbohm.
While Hitchcock praised Hunt and Tansey following their performances in the preseason opener, they’ve got no realistic chance to make the opening roster, so they’re probably on the outside looking in as it pertains to getting more game action. If anyone among the group above is going to stick around, it’s probably Schmaltz, who is in line for some NHL action this year if injuries occur. The front office may want to see Dunn and Vannelli, who have dealt with injuries in camp, play in a game before they’re sent back to the minors.
Among the goalies, Ville Husso seems like the most likely player to go. Luke Opilka could also be sent back to his junior club in Kitchener within the next few days, but it seems as if the Blues might want him to continue rehabbing with their training staff as he recovers from hip surgery. The Blues usually only keep three goalies in camp after the first cut, but with Pheonix Copley and Jordan Binnington still battling for the third spot on the depth chart, both might stick around a bit longer this year.