St. Louis Blues Free Agency 2022: First Wave

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The 2022 NHL Draft and the first wave of free agency have come and gone, leaving the St. Louis Blues looking like a much different team than the one that ended the 2021-22 season. There were key players that departed via trade and free agency, players that were subject to trade rumours that ultimately stayed put, new free agent additions, and not to mention the largest contract in team history being handed out all thanks to the St. Louis Blues free agency 2022.

With this flurry of moves, it leads one to wonder whether the Blues are better or worse now than they were at the end of last season. Let’s take a look at each move and what it all means for the immediate and long-term future of the franchise.

Blues swap goalies with Detroit

At the NHL Draft in Montreal, Blues President and General Manager Doug Armstrong traded goaltender Ville Husso to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a 3rd round pick. Husso was set to be an unrestricted free agent who the Blues ultimately could not afford to keep given Jordan Binnington‘s contract. Armstrong was fortunate to get anything in return for Husso as Detroit could have waited until free agency to sign him, though they essentially acquired his negotiating rights and quickly signed him to a multi-year deal.

In need of a new cost-effective backup goaltender, Armstrong turned to the free agent market and signed 36-year-old veteran Thomas Greiss to a one-year deal for $1.25 million. Greiss spent the last two seasons with the Red Wings playing a total of 65 games, signalling that the Blues expect Binnington to carry the load next season.

One of St. Louis’ strengths last season was the goaltending tandem of Binnington and Husso. With Husso out and Greiss in, all eyes will be on Binnington, who of course has shown flashes of greatness throughout his career, but consistency has always been in question, leaving the Blues worse off than they were a year ago in the net.

Thomas signs max extension

On the opening day of free agency, the St. Louis Blues made a massive move for both the present and future as they locked in center Robert Thomas to an eight-year deal, which is the maximum allowed under the league’s current collective bargaining agreement. Thomas has one more year remaining on his previous contract, tying him to St. Louis for the next nine seasons. The $8.125 salary is the largest ever given out by the Blues, as they were proactive in securing their young star center.

It was essential for the Blues to get this extension done early, with other stars such as Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Jordan Kyrou all on expiring deals after the upcoming season. Ideally, the team would like to have the future of at least one more of these players secured before the start of the 2022-23 season, as those four quite frankly are the cornerstones of the forward group.

Forward comings and goings

At the end of the 2021-22 season, all signs pointed to a return for David Perron in St. Louis. The player loved it here and the team loved having him. But if there’s one thing you can say about Doug Armstrong, it’s that he is strong in his convictions and will not make a deal where he feels he is overpaying. At 34 years old, Perron is a unique case in which the best years of his career have come after the age of 30, but Father Time always catches up and Armstrong could not justify the salary that a player of Perron’s stature deserves, especially with the previously mentioned looming free agents next year, resulting in a major loss in the Blues free agency period. Perron ultimately signed with Detroit who all of a sudden have become a safe haven for former Blues.

The only addition at forward so far has been center Noel Acciari, who was signed to a one-year deal for $1.25 million. Acciari essentially will be replacing Tyler Bozak in the lineup as a bottom-six center who will help out on the penalty kill. Blues fans will remember Acciari from his time with the Boston Bruins as he was on that Boston team that lost to St. Louis in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

With the subtraction of Perron and most likely Bozak and the addition of Acciari, the St. Louis Blues are certainly worse off up front now than they were a year ago. Perron was the team’s top power play threat and it is going to take another big leap forward from guys like Thomas and Kyrou to fill that void moving forward.

Defence remains the same

Instead of looking elsewhere in the free agent market or by trading for an unfamiliar asset, Armstrong stuck with familiarity to shore up the team’s defensive unit as he brought back Nick Leddy on a four-year deal for a $4 million cap hit. Leddy was acquired at the NHL trade deadline in 2022 and brought stability to the St. Louis Blues’ back end through the end of the regular season and into the playoffs.

Restricted free agents Niko Mikkola and Scott Perunovich were both signed to one-year pacts, leaving the St. Louis Blues with the same defensive group as the year prior, with the same problems as the year prior. There are simply too many bodies, particularly on the left-hand side, and not enough production. It feels like what the team needs most defensively is a trade in which they can give away quantity for quality. Whether a trade like that exists in the market remains to be seen, but for now, the Blues are largely unchanged from a year ago on the blue line.

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