Looking Ahead: Restricted and Unrestricted Free Agents

Looking Ahead: Restricted and
Unrestricted Free Agents

Patrik Berglund

It’s time to start looking ahead. Before you know it, the organization will be forced to make decisions on a wealth of free agents that litter the roster. Who will stay? Who will go? Who is an unrestricted free agent and who is restricted?

First things first, let’s clear up any confusion between what an unrestricted free agent and a restricted free agent are.

A restricted free agent is a skater that doesn’t meet the requirements to be an unrestricted free agent (below) and is no longer considered an entry-level player. His current team must first extend a qualifying offer or the player can become an unrestricted free agent and test the open market.

An unrestricted free agent is a player that is at least 27 years of age or has seven years of experience in the NHL.

On July 1st, the free agency period can begin and any player that is an unrestricted free agent is free to negotiate with any club. There is a bit more to how the whole free agency process works, but that’s it summed up as simply as possible. The main facts are that any player you see that is a restricted free agent needs an offer made in order to continue negotiations and any unrestricted free agent can receive offers from other teams after July 1.

Restricted Free Agents

Due to the immense amount of youth that has shaped the team’s roster, the Blues have quite a few restricted free agents.

  • T.J. Oshie
  • Patrik Berglund
  • B.J. Crombeen
  • Vladimir Sobotka
  • Matt D’Agostini
  • Ryan Reaves
  • Roman Polak
  • Nikita Nikitin

The issues concerning the ownership group definitely made the waters a bit murkier, which makes predicting what the team will do a lot harder. One can imagine with a fairly high degree of certainty that Oshie and Berglund will be priorities #1 and #2 in getting some qualifying offers made.

We can also be fairly certain that due to their outstanding play, Matt D’Agostini, Roman Polak and Nikita Nikitin will receive offers as well.

From there it’s tough to predict as it’s pretty tough to assume which direction this team will head without any stable money backing it.

Unrestricted Free Agents

At the NHL level, this list is a lot shorter.

  • Cam Janssen
  • Chris Porter
  • Ty Conklin

Thanks to Ben Bishop’s big performances when he was called up, it’s probably safe to say Ty Conklin will be headed to a new club – assuming the organization doesn’t pull any quick ones on us.

Cam Janssen has mentored Ryan Reaves into becoming a tenacious fighter that can play the puck, which might spell the end to Janssen’s reign of terror as a member of the Blues. While he may be criticized for his inability to contribute to other areas of the game beyond the physical level, off the ice Janssen is truly one of the greats and would be sorely missed.


Tough decisions won’t just be made at the NHL level as Peoria has a fairly sizable group of free agents as well.

Restricted Free Agents

  • Ben Bishop
  • T.J. Hensick
  • Nicholas Drazenovic

We’d have to assume Ben Bishop will return given the fact Ty Conklin’s contract is up. Through a small sample of appearances, Bishop did well in holding his own and has likely earned the confidence of most Blues fans as a capable backup.

Hensick is a tricky story. He’s been amazing at the AHL level but has looked like a lost child at the NHL level.

Unrestricted Free Agents

  • Dean Arsene
  • Tyson Strachan
  • Nathan Oystrick
  • Dave Scratchard
  • Graham Mink
  • Dave Spina
  • Adam Cracknell

It may sound harsh, but Tyson Strachan effectively played himself out of St. Louis in my opinion. He did provide depth, but he did little in proving why he should be a member of the organization’s long-term plans.

It will also be interesting to see which direction the club takes with Graham Mink, the proverbial “Crash Davis” of the Peoria Rivermen.

Overall Thoughts

As you can see, the Blues have an enormous amount of decisions to make this summer. With July 1st as the date that unrestricted agents can start negotiating with other teams, the Blues have to act quickly in order to secure all the pieces they want to retain.

Frankly, with the ownership a looming “?”, don’t be surprised if some of the decisions made in the upcoming weeks aren’t favorable ones. I can’t envision a total roster overhaul and I can’t picture any major upsets the likes of Oshie leaving town, but I don’t think everyone will return. Some pieces will have to be trimmed from the overall fat and new pieces will have to be brought in – as cheaply as possible until a new investor is found.

It is worth pointing out that the Blues are trending right above the NHL’s salary cap floor, but we can imagine that will be bumped up once a new contract is given to Oshie and possible a new one to Berglund as well.

Considering the Blues were out of the hunt well before the 2010-11 season wrapped, it’s safe to say that myself and plenty of other fans were eagerly anticipating this time of the year. Change is imminent. For better or for worse, players will be coming and going, and while it might not sit well with all fans, it is guaranteed to be exciting.