What to do with Blues’ pending free agents

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With the calendar about to turn to March, all eyes will be on the NHL’s trade deadline for the next few weeks. However, it’s not too early to start looking into plans for the offseason. St. Louis Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong certainly agrees with that sentiment, extending Head Coach Craig Berube and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo over the All-Star break.

Following those contract extensions, there are three remaining players that are set to hit unrestricted free agency by the end of the year. Veteran forwards David Perron and Tyler Bozak are out of contract, while goaltender Ville Husso is set to become a free agent for the first time in his career. While the extensions for Berube and Bortuzzo made perfect sense, decisions on these players could be tough for a variety of reasons.

David Perron

Perron is in the final year of a four-year deal signed ahead of the 2018-19 season that saw him return to St. Louis for a third stint with the Blues. Originally drafted by St. Louis in the 1st round of the 2007 NHL Draft, Perron has bounced around the league due to various trades as well as being selected in the NHL Expansion Draft in 2017. However, Perron has only ever signed a contract with the Blues, returning to St. Louis every chance he has gotten.

Given his comfort with the organization, it’s easy to see Perron signing some sort of extension. At age 33, a contract longer than two or three years would likely be too much of a commitment, though a shorter deal on a similar salary to his current deal ($4 million cap hit) makes sense. While he doesn’t wear a letter on his sweater, Perron has become a leader in the dressing room, so while you should expect his production to decline in the next few years, his value to the team overall should not be overlooked.

Tyler Bozak

Bozak also joined the Blues ahead of the 2018-19 season, signing a three-year deal as an unrestricted free agent. After a Stanley Cup championship in the first year and two more playoff appearances after that, Bozak signed on for one additional year in 2021-22. While still a valuable member of the team, particularly on the penalty kill, Bozak’s skills have diminished with age, which of course is expected. While playing as a middle-six forward for most of his career, Bozak has been centring the Blues’ fourth line all season.

The writing appears to be on the wall with Tyler Bozak in that this is likely his last season in St. Louis. With the team’s forward depth and a plethora of centers, an extension doesn’t make much sense for the team. Bozak has been a reliable center and has shown that he can still make an impact at the NHL level, so it would not be surprising to see him land with another contender this summer. Forever a fan-favourite as a member of the Blues’ first championship team, Bozak’s time in St. Louis will be remembered fondly.

Ville Husso

Now, this is where things get really interesting. It’s been well documented that there has been goaltending controversy for much of the year in St. Louis. While incumbent starter Jordan Binnington has struggled at times this season, Ville Husso has been superb. In his second year at the NHL level, Husso has shown potential to be a legitimate number one goaltender.

With Binnington signed for five more seasons after this one, the net appears to be his in St. Louis for the foreseeable future. So where does that leave Husso? Much of that will depend on the stretch run of this season and the playoffs. If Husso finds himself starting and winning playoff games, he could up his asking price and be one of the most sought-after goaltenders in this year’s free agency class. Given the size of Binnington’s contract, it’s hard to imagine the Blues committing too many years or dollars to another goaltender. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds in the coming months.

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