Blues fans hoping their team will mix it up in free agency this summer may be disappointed, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be transactions according to Tom Stillman.
The Blues governor and chairman recently joined 101ESPN in-studio and said teams will be more apt to wheel and deal near the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft rather than free agency.
“It’s not a very deep class of free agents. And with a salary cap that’s going to be pretty flat, I’m not sure that it’s going to be a real active free agency period for anyone,” Stillman said. “Also, because we have the expansion draft…That creates a lot of opportunities well beyond just the draft.
“The permutations of deals that can be made with Las Vegas are pretty endless. So I could see a lot of activity shift there…That can be anything from…’George McPhee, GM of Las Vegas, I want X-player on this other team. If you take him for me and trade him to me, I’ll give you…’ There are lots of variations that are up in the air there. That could soak up some of the need.”
This means Stillman, Doug Armstrong or any other NHL team executive could call Vegas management, say I want so-and-so and I’ll give you so-and-so for so-and-so if you pick so-and-so…The possibilities are pretty much endless in the league-wide expansion shuffle.
The club chairman also broke the news they’ve signed Barret Jackman as a player development coach with a focus on working with defensemen.
“We’re really happy to have a great man like Barret back in the organization,” Stillman said.
Stillman and Bernie Miklasz touched on several other topics during the owner’s visit, many of which can be found below along with the interview’s full audio.
How he feels regarding the Blues’ end to this past season:
“We go into the postseason, and obviously our goal is to win our last game of the playoffs and take home a Cup. So there’s always some disappointment in that. That’s where we wanted to be. That’d done and it stays with you for a while.
“You then have to look back and consider all the things that we did in the offseason. We made a decision to take half a step back and align with our younger core by not signing some key players and trading Brian Elliott. And then what we did at the trade deadline, trading a key offensive defenseman and an important part of the team.
“And yet, the guys were able to dig in. They were in a tough position at one point. They were able to dig in, pull together and make it to the playoffs and make it to the second round…While we want to be going further, we see that as a pretty encouraging sign.”
His feelings on Jake Allen’s strong finish:
“It was huge and even more so because of what Jake went through during the year. He had as rough a patch as a goalie can have and yet, he was able to pull through that and mentally, physically make some adjustments. And then play at a truly elite level…He’s on a four-year deal now going forward. That’s a very good feeling.”
Will the Blues’ young talent, both on the roster and in the AHL, sustain the future?
“I think so…The other key takeaway is…People’s eyes were opened about the quality of our young players. I think before that, either people weren’t aware or even the feeling of, ‘Gee, maybe our cupboard isn’t so full.
“Then you start having people come up the way (Ivan) Barbashev did…You don’t consider (Magnus) Paajarvi a prospect, but he was in the minors and he came up and just really played well…You saw Agostino and Meegan and others, and there are others down there…It’s a good cupboard and it’s aligned with this young group coming up so they can have a nucleus for a long time.”
On the coaching swap and what he noticed about Mike Yeo:
“He’s very straight forward and he’s someone you feel comfortable with right away. I think you could see that from the players. None of that is meant as anything negative towards Hitch. I’m a big fan of Hitch. He’s one of the great coaches of all time and he did great things here.
“This is just the way Mike is and he’s a younger guy, closer to the age of the guys he’s coaching. Doug and his group did a lot of research on Mike ahead of time, and because a person of his quality was available at that time, we did this coach-in-waiting deal as a kind of succession plan.”
How he thought Alex Pietrangelo handled his first season as captain:
“I thought he did very well…It’s a tough job. It’s not like you’re leading a bunch of 12-year-olds and they all go ‘rah rah rah.’ These are grown men and they have their own ideas and they live their lives in certain ways and think certain things about how we should play and not play.
“So it’s not an easy task and I think he did well and he will grow more and more into that job.”