This weekend is all the proof I need to know that Blues GM Doug Armstrong checks LetsGoBlues.com on a daily basis.
On Wednesday, I wrote an article declaring what the Blues still had to do before July was over. Almost all of these have been met in just this past weekend. You can read the full article here.
This article had five requirements that the Blues had to meet in order to be successful in 2011-12. Let’s revisit these, shall we?
1. Qualified RFAs have to accept offers.
This requirement has not officially come to fruition… yet. A great step for this was when T.J. Oshie and Armstrong worked out a new deal that will keep Oshie in St. Louis for one more season. The one-year contract will pay Oshie $2.35 million next season, which is slightly higher than what Patrick Berglund ($2.25M) and David Perron ($2.15M) will make. Some feel that the Blues failed in getting Oshie locked up long-term; I do not agree. Oshie had troubles with reporting to practice last season which resulted in a two-game team-suspension. I expect Armstrong mentioned this during negotiations with Oshie and his agent, Matt Oates. This short deal will let the Blues assess Oshie’s worth for one more season and see if he can behave under the Blues’ policies. Signing players to long contracts while not officially having an owner is not a smart business move anyway.
The Blues still have Ben Bishop and Ryan Reaves sitting in the free-agent pool as restricted free-agents.
2. Fill the backup goaltender spot.
Check that one off the list. Brian Elliott, former starter for the Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche, accepted a two-way, one-year deal that will reportedly pay him $600,000 if he is with the Blues and $105,000 if he is playing with the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL. This was a great move by Armstrong because not only do the Blues have a quality goaltender that has plenty of NHL-experience, he will push Ben Bishop to work harder to be the backup goaltender. If Bishop isn’t ready for NHL action, you have a great option waiting in Peoria. Since he also is a former starter, this may even place some pressure on Jaroslav Halak to be the best he can be.
Elliott, 26, was 15-27-9 last season with a 3.34 GAA and a .893 save percentage. Remember, these numbers are very skewed since Elliott played on two very bad teams last season (Ottawa and Colorado).
3. Fill D’Agostini’s role.
What better way to meet this requirement than just sign the man himself? D’Agostini did hit the open market as an unrestricted free-agent Friday but just hours after the 11:00 deadline, Armstrong pulled off a deal to keep D’Agostini in a blue-note for two more seasons. The deal will reportedly pay D’Agostini $1.5 million next season and $1.8 million in 2012-13.
D’Agostini, 24, was quite the surprise last season, recording 21 goals, 25 assists and 46 points and playing in all 82 games. D’Agostini was acquired from Montreal in exchange for prospect Aaron Palushaj late in the 2009-10 season.
4. Pick up a veteran defenseman
Kent Huskins, 32, is a very serviceable defenseman who plays a quiet game. This is the key to being a solid defenseman. He will not score a ton of goals or rack up a lot of minutes, but he will play steady defense when called upon. On Saturday, Armstrong announced that the Blues and Huskins agreed on a one-year, $1 million contract.
Huskins now overtakes the spot as the oldest defenseman on the roster, edging Barret Jackman (30). It looks as if the Blues have their defense in place, throwing out Jackman, Huskins, Carlo Colaiacovo, Alex Pietrangelo, Nikita Nikitin, Roman Polak and Kevin Shattenkirk for next season. Ian Cole will be battling for a job as well in training camp.
5. Get to the salary-floor… and beyond!
…Just got there. Currently, the cap-floor is $48.30 million. The Blues are sitting just above that number with approximately $49 million spent on player salaries. The Blues will likely make that total salary around $50 million if they can get Reaves and Bishop to accept deals. The Blues are expected to be one of the lower-tier teams in terms of salary-spent again this season. As mentioned, the Blues still do not have an owner, so I would not expect this team to add anymore free-agents. The only movement Blues fans should expect to see are lateral moves… if anything at all.