The Blues are just days removed from a disappointing playoff exit. Though the pain is still fresh, it's never too early to start planning for the future. It's never too early to start examining what went wrong and what can be improved to secure the elusive Stanley Cup. Now is as good a time as any to start discussing player contracts.
This summer is going to be an extremely interesting one. The Blues have some key contracts expiring and will have to be make some very difficult decisions when it comes to which players stay in St. Louis and which will be allowed to test the open market.
With that, here's a list of all of the NHL and AHL free agents in the St. Louis organization.
NHL – Restricted
NHL – Unrestricted
AHL – Restricted
Stefan Della Rovere
AHL – Unrestricted
That's a pretty lengthy list, isn't it? It's safe to say the Blues have plenty of issues to address this season both at the NHL and the AHL level. I'll highlight some of the biggest and most obvious names to address and whether or not I think they'll be sticking around.
You've got to find a way to retain Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk. That should be priority #1 and #1a. Both men are key to the team's future and could fetch major dollars on the open market. It won't be cheap, but you've got to keep these two defenseman in the mix.
Players I'd label as "50-50 to return" include Chris Stewart, Patrik Berglund and Jordan Leopold. Stewart was strong during the regular season but a dud in the playoffs. Berglund always seems to be one step away from being a major contributor, yet he's apart of the core group that's failed to take the Blues to the next level. Leopold might be expecting a raise from his $3 million deal from 2013 and the money might not be there with deals due for Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk.
Get ready to say so long to Andy McDonald (35), Jamie Langenbrunner (37) and Scott Nichol (38). The Blues might elect to keep one of these veterans, but that might be a stretch. Given McDonald's extremely poor display in the playoffs and the increasing ages and injuries to Langenbrunner and Nichol, we may have seen the last of these three. The Blues might keep one around for veteran experience, but the Blues proved in the playoffs that fourth-line skaters like Langenbrunner and Nichol have been replaced by younger options.
As for the future of other players, especially Ian Cole and Kris Russell, that will depend on how the team handles other contracts around the roster.
Stay tuned. This summer is going to be a busy one with lots to analyze.