For the second straight season, the St. Louis Blues fell to the Los Angeles Kings in a playoff series.
At least the loss this time around wasn’t a four-game sweep like last season’s, but the Blues blew a two-game series lead with four straight losses to bow out in six games.
The Blues certainly didn’t just roll over for the Kings. This series was arguably the most evenly-matched of the conference quarterfinals, with each game decided by a single goal.
Ultimately, however, a lack of scoring punch did in the Blues, who had the second-worst goals-per-game of all teams in the conference quarterfinal, along with the fourth-worst power-play and the fourth-fewest shots on goal.
Some in the St. Louis media are calling for the Blues to add a “proven finisher”, but that depends on both the willingness of ownership to spend toward the cap ceiling, and how much it’ll cost to retain their key players.
As per CapGeek, the Blues currently have over $41.3 million invested in 16 players. Their RFAs included Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Patrik Berglund, Chris Stewart and Kris Russell, while Jordan Leopold and Andy McDonald are their notable unrestricted free agents.
The priority, of course, is re-signing Pietrangelo (a future Norris nominee) and Shattenkirk, which will be expensive, possibly running between $10-$12 million combined, potentially squeezing out Russell or Ian Cole as a result.
Stewart was the Blues leading scorer in the regular season while Berglund was fourth in team scoring, but their offense dried up against the Kings. Berglund managed only two points in six games and Stewart only an assist, proving a poor outing for both players.
Earlier this season, Stewart’s name was being bandied about as potential trade bait, so don’t be surprised if those rumors crop up again heading toward the June entry draft weekend.
Another name to keep in mind is David Perron, a usually reliable performer who (like Berglund) managed only two points against the Kings. Though in the first season of a four-year, $15.25 million contract, Perron was the subject of some criticism over his peformance this season.
McDonald’s age (he’ll be 36 next season) and injury history(concussions) likely means he and the Blues will part ways this summer. Leopold could also end up hitting the free agent market.
Landing a proven scorer via free agency (provided, of course, ownership wants to make the investment) won’t be easy; not because St. Louis wouldn’t be a good destination for free agents (it is) but due to the few decent choices available.
That could improve by late-June/early-July when teams in need of dumping salary this summer use their compliance buyouts. That could create a bonanza in the trade market, where some clubs might be willing to move high-salaries scorers for cheap returns.
The Blues have some depth to shop on defense (Cole, Russell) and in goal, where Jake Allen could push either Jaroslav Halak or Brian Elliott onto the trade block.