Opening night is still three months away, but with the draft and the biggest part of free agency now over, let the roster projections begin.
As we head into the 2017-18 season, it’s distinctly possible that the St. Louis Blues will look more different going into a season than they have in a long while. With Mike Yeo having a whole offseason and training camp to implement system changes (and to hire a whole new coaching staff), the Blues may end up playing a very different style than they did last season.
And with the team’s longest-tenured player in Patrik Berglund out for the start of the season, another one of their longest-tenured players in Ryan Reaves gone for good, an old friend in David Perron who had come back to visit but is now gone again, and a more recently-adopted fan favorite in Scottie Upshall who likely won’t be back, the team itself will look quite different than it did at the end of 2016-17.
The Blues may bring in a few more veterans on professional tryout deals before the end of the offseason, as GM Doug Armstrong has often done in recent years, but for the most part it’s likely that the guys who have a chance to make their team this season are already on the roster. With that being said, here’s an early projection at what their opening-night roster might look like this season:
Those third and fourth lines, in particular, are very flexible, and maybe you swap Steen and Sobotka if you don’t think you’ve got enough physicality on the second line. While Zach Sanford could certainly claim a roster spot among the bottom-six forwards with a strong training camp, the fact that he’s on a two-way contract and is waiver-exempt definitely provides incentive for the Blues to send him to the AHL to start the season, as it will allow them to save salary cap space. In addition, since Sanford has just one season of professional experience, he’s more in need of consistent playing time than anyone else in the competition.
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Vince Dunn–Robert Bortuzzo
The battle for the open spot among the Blues’ defensive corps could be the most hotly-contested competition of training camp.
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There are basically four candidates for the job, each one with a distinctly different level of safety and predictability attached to them. The safest candidate would be Petteri Lindbohm, who has the most professional experience of the group, has pretty much learned everything he can in the AHL, and should be comfortable sitting for long stretches at this point. Lindbohm also has to go through waivers to be assigned to the minors this year, so for inventory purposes it’d make the most sense to keep him.
The Blues could opt to keep any of their three highly-touted young defensive prospects, though; Jordan Schmaltz probably has the edge among that group because he saw some NHL action last season and now has an idea of how to hop in and out of the lineup. Vince Dunn is the youngest, has the highest ceiling, and had the best 2016-17 season among the four contestants, so he could force his way onto the roster with a strong training camp. But he’ll have to watch out for Jake Walman, who turned pro late last season and has put himself on the front office’s radar. The 21-year-old could go the Colton Parayko route and steal a spot, despite the fact that he’s got just a couple months of pro experience, if he has an off-the-charts training camp.
Allen and Hutton are obviously going to open the season as the Blues’ top two goaltenders going into the season, but it’ll be interesting to see if Mike Yeo takes a different approach to managing Allen’s workload than Ken Hitchcock did during the early part of 2016-17. Yeo has proven that he’s not afraid to keep going back to the same goalie again and again, as he started Devan Dubnyk for 38 straight games with the Wild back in 2014-15. But Hutton proved himself as a capable fill-in last season, and with all of the back-to-backs the Blues have in 2017-18, it wouldn’t be the most surprising thing in the world to see him start 30-35 games.
Injured-reserve (1): Patrik Berglund
Berglund will be out until at least December after having shoulder surgery late last month. The most interesting aspect of his situation might actually be seeing which player gets sent packing when he ultimately returns. Paajarvi, Jaskin, Bennett, and Sundqvist all would need to go through waivers to be sent to the minors, and Barbashev could be a candidate to go down too if he doesn’t establish himself during the early part of the season.