After signing Jordan Binnington on Saturday, the Stanley Cup Champion Blues have taken care of most of the heavy lifting for their off-season. They’ve signed Binnington and Zach Sanford, kept Carl Gunnarsson, and had already re-signed Jay Bouwmeester and Robert Bortuzzo during the season.
Doug Armstrong told us in The Fast Lane several weeks ago that he wanted to give the group that won it all a chance to repeat their success. Based on the way the Stanley Cup Final ended, the Blues will go to camp with these forwards…pending an unlikely Patrick Maroon return…available to be among their fourteen to start the season:
The top nine should come from among Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko, Sammy Blais, Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, Zach Sanford, Tyler Bozak, Robert Thomas, Robby Fabbri and Jordan Kyrou. The Blues would like to get Thomas moved to center sooner rather than later, so don’t be surprised if Craig Berube reprises the Schenn, O’Reilly, Tarasenko line and then plays Thomas at center with Perron on the right side and Schwartz on the left. Bozak would center a third line with the likes of Blais, Sanford, Kyrou or Fabbri. The fourth line guys will come from among the solid group that ended last year; Ivan Barbashev, Oskar Sundqvist and Alexander Steen along with McKenzie McEachern and Jordan Nolan. Klim Kostin would have to have an amazing camp to make the team.
The defense is set, with Alex Pietrangelo and Vince Dunn, Colton Parayko and Bouwmeester, and the last pairing coming from Bortuzzo, Gunnarsson and Joel Edmundson, who still must reach a contract agreement. In case of injury, the Blues have righthanded shot Mitch Reinke, who led all AHL defensemen in power play points and was named an all-rookie performer in that league. Niko Mikkola, who struggled in his cup of coffee with the Blues, was an integral part of Finland’s IIHF World Championship team. So, there is depth on the blue line for the Blues.
Getting Binnington under contract was going to happen, but doing so now gives the Blues the cost certainty they needed to finish negotiations with Sundqvist, Edmundson and Barbashev. Binnington played 72 games when his time in the AHL and the playoffs is included, but 46 in the regular season. Teams always want to keep their backup sharp, and with the Blues having a very good backup in Jake Allen, getting Binnington about 50 games and Allen the rest will be the goal.
Binnington’s contract could have gone myriad ways, but it turned out best for the franchise. John Gibson of Anaheim was drafted in the same draft as Binnington and has been terrific in four seasons as the Ducks’ main goalie. He helped them to the conference finals in 2017 and signed an eight-year, $51 million contract. So Binnington could have used that comparison, since he has a Stanley Cup and Gibson doesn’t. Or he could have used Connor Hellebuyck of Winnipeg, who cleared his entry level deal and received $37 million over six years from the Jets. We knew that Binnington had to get more than Jake Allen, and he did by $50,000 a season.
Binnington has bet on himself by signing for $8.8 million over two years. He knows that if he can come close to repeating his ’18-’19 season, he’ll be in for a huge payday in two years when he becomes a UFA. Carey Price of Montreal is in the midst of an eight-year, $84 million contract. Sergei Bobrovsky just got $70 million over seven years from Florida. Those two are 31 and 30 years old, respectively, and neither has a Stanley Cup on his resume. If Binnington has two more seasons close to his first one, he’ll be in for a monster payday, and the Blues will be happy to pay it.
The 2019-2020 Blues will look pretty much like the Stanley Cup champions that we last saw on the ice on June 12. With virtually no turnover, can they do it again? Well, they’ve done it once. There’s no reason to believe that can’t.