With Tavares Out of Play, Blues Are Exploring Next Best Forward Options

With the NHL’s courting period officially in progress, star New York Islanders forward John Tavares has apparently made it clear he will not be sporting the Blue Note next season.

Tavares reportedly began meetings with eight possible clubs who have shown interest in him according to our Blues insider Jeremy Rutherford, with the local team nowhere to be seen on the list despite previous rumors to the contrary. The Athletic scribe recently discussed more details with ‘The Bernie Miklasz Show,’ and referred to Islander insider Arthur Staple’s recent Athletic piece listing teams Tavares will likely meet with.

“The list here is Toronto, San Jose, Dallas as somewhat of a surprise, Boston could be on the list and then maybe Tampa Bay or Nashville. No St. Louis Blues. ” Rutherford said.

“I wrote that a couple days ago and I know a lot of fans said, ‘Hey, you’re just speculating,’ but I was told that with St. Louis they had no interest in coming here. And it’s a bit of a surprise because he does have a good friend, Alex Pietrangelo here and you’ve got a player in Tarasenko that you could probably mesh with and put up some good points.”

While the news Tavares has “no interest” in playing with the Blues is kind of a bummer, JR went on to note the strong possibility the star center is simply posturing at the moment and plans to return to the Islanders.

“Everybody in the hockey world thinks that Jonathan Tavares is going to go back to the New York Islanders. However, if he doesn’t have a contract done, he can’t not look at these other teams,” Rutherford said.

“A lot of people feel like he’s going through the motions talking to these other teams just to make sure he gets the best deal with the New York Islanders…Blues fans, even though they’re upset right now, it might not be a big deal when he re-signs with the Islanders.”

So, who’s next on the list?

While we can all but put a big ‘X’ through Tavares’ name, the fact remains the Blues need an effective center, someone to share the ice with Tarasenko and put points up on a consistent basis. While no one current free agents hold a candle to Tavares’s output, a trade with Buffalo for 27-year-old Ryan O’Reilly could still be in play, albeit not without obstacles.

“I think the Blues had a lot of talks with GM Jason Botterill of the Sabres at the draft. I saw Doug Armstrong in the hallway speaking with him,” JR said. “Ryan O’Reilly, he’s got the big contract, $7.5 [million] per year for the next five years and he’s a guy whose career high is 28 goals, 64 points…

“Also, he’s due a $7.5 [million dollar] bonus on July 1, so it adds a little bit of complication. Do you make the trade now and then you’re on the hook for that $7.5 [million] bonus? Or, do you allow the Buffalo Sabres to pay that once July 1 hits? Then you’re going to have to give the Sabres more in a trade.”

JR also said the Blues would like to hang on to prized prospects like center Robert Thomas, which could mean they haven’t figured out who they’d offer Buffalo in a possible O’Reilly trade.

“The word I heard at the draft from the Buffalo perspective was that the Blues had not yet stepped up to the table in terms of what they wanted to offer for Ryan O’Reilly. To me, if you’re going to upgrade center, he is your best opportunity.”

“On the wing, Jeff Skinner from Carolina looks to be on the move from the Hurricanes,” JR added. “However, he has a no-movement clause and he can kind of dictate where he goes and there’s been some rumors the past 24 hours that he might be turning some trades down and we don’t know if the Blues are one of those teams.”

Who’s in net?

Lord only knows where the Blues may have finished had Carter Hutton not stepped up in a big way last season. But, with the courting period open, it looks like the security blanket may be leaving town.

“Carter Hutton, the St. Louis Blues backup goaltender, had inquiries from eight teams,” Rutherford said. “I spoke with a representative for Carter Hutton who said that he believes maybe the ship has sailed on the Blues re-signing him.

“So you’ve got all these problems up front with the forward group and your goaltending might take a step back because if you can’t re-sign Hutton, you’re going to come back with Jake Allen as your starter and who’s going to be the backup?

“The Blues really could be in a situation where they bring back one of these guys who aren’t as good as Carter Hutton and then they maybe have to turn to Ville Husso, the prospect A lot of people like him, but he hasn’t played in the NHL,” he added. “We talked about this summer being a big one for Doug Armstrong and it’s not just at forward even though the focus is on there. He’s got to get a goaltender signed to come in and play alongside Jake Allen.”

Season kicks off Oct. 4 at Enterprise Center

The Blues released their schedule this past weekend and will begin the 2018-19 campaign with a three-game home stand against the Jets on Oct. 4, followed by the rival Blackhawks Oct. 6 and Flames Oct. 11. The Note and Hawks will square off three times in October.

Other notable dates include a New Year’s Eve showdown with the Rangers at home and and Jan. 3 matchup with the Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals.

Check out JR’s entire segment below, and stay tuned to 101 ESPN and 101Sports.com for plenty of Blues coverage as the offseason unfolds.

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