The Blues chose to move on–at least for the moment–from high-profile trade acquisition Nail Yakupov on Monday.
Monday was the final day for NHL teams to make decisions on the fates of upcoming restricted free agents, and while the St. Louis Blues chose to move forward in the process of bringing back six of those players for the 2017-18 season, they chose to move on from five others.
Forward Nail Yakupov, a former No. 1 overall pick whom the Blues acquired from the Oilers in October, was the most high-profile player who was non-tendered Monday. Ty Rattie, who saw brief action with the NHL club during the 2016-17 season, as well as NHL veterans Landon Ferraro and Jordan Caron and career minor-leaguer Jacob Doty also did not receive offers. All five players become unrestricted free agents following the move.
The decision to non-tender Yakupov, who would’ve earned $2.5 million if the Blues had extended him a qualifying offer, was basically a no-brainer for the Blues. The 23-year-old winger played in just 40 games for the Blues this past season, scoring three goals while adding six assists with a minus-3 rating. Though he looked much more comfortable during his final stretch of action in late March, he ultimately had season-ending knee surgery, and in his absence young forwards like Zach Sanford and Ivan Barbashev proved their worth as NHL players.
Yakupov almost certainly won’t get an offer from any NHL team for the amount that the Blues would have owed him had they tendered him a contract.
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Thus, it’s possible that the Blues could choose to bring him back on a more team-friendly deal–likely a two-way contract with an NHL salary under $1 million–but he may also choose to pursue greener pastures by returning to his native Russia and playing in the KHL. It’s by no means a certainty that the Blues will actually have any interest in bringing him back, either; they’ve already got a sufficient group of guys that could battle for the available forward spots on the roster (Dmitrij Jaskin, Magnus Paajarvi, Sanford, Barbashev, Oskar Sundqvist, etc.) They have a limited amount of spots to work with in the AHL this year, and they need to guarantee development time for prospects like Tage Thompson, Adam Musil, and Samuel Blais.
It was a little surprising to see Rattie non-tendered, as the Blues kept him on the NHL roster without actually playing him for a long while last season so that they could avoid exposing him to waivers and losing him. Though they lost him on a waiver claim to the Carolina Hurricanes in January, they got him back in February. At 24 years old, his prospect star has pretty much faded, but it seemed like it might make sense to give Rattie one more training camp to prove his worth, especially since he’s a much better fit in Mike Yeo’s system than he was in Ken Hitchcock’s.
The 25-year-old Ferraro missed almost all of the 2016-17 season after tearing his ACL, and he’ll likely move on to a new organization for the coming campaign. Caron, who saw brief action with the Blues in 2015-16, moved down the organizational forward depth chart as guys like Kenny Agostino, Wade Megan, Barbashev, and Sanford emerged last season, and he didn’t even get consistent time for the Wolves in 2016-17. Doty, an enforcer who somewhat surprisingly got a qualifying offer going into last season, spent almost the entire season in the ECHL and pretty clearly was not in the Blues’ plans going forward.