With free agency fast approaching, there are many questions for the Blues to answer. The team has five unrestricted free agents and two restricted free agents, and they have to figure out who to sign and who to dump. The list is as follows:
So, who stays and who goes? Here are my predictions.
Marty was streaky, at best, for the Blues this past season, but was hampered by injuries. The Rangers had some interest at the trading deadline for Rucinsky, but a deal couldn't be pulled. The best bet is that the Blues will let Rucinsky walk. Most likely he'll be picked up by another team, but he has already hinted towards retirement if no teams come calling.
Johnson is the true meaning of "workhorse". The guy goes out there and lays it all on the line every single night. He's a skilled penalty killer, blocks shots, and has some scoring touch. But when it all comes down to it, the Blues will let Johnson walk because of the lack of roster spots left due to the youth coming in next season (Oshie, Berglund, possibly Eller). He'll be a great find for another team.
Mike Johnson was another guy that went down with the injury bug. A shoulder injury caused him to miss the last three-fourts of the season. In my opinion, if he wouldn't have gotten hurt, he could have really helped this team on its penalty kill. The lack of being able to see him play will hurt his value with the Blues, which will end up in him becoming a free agent.
Stastny has already told Blues management that he'll only accept a one-way deal from the team. They might wanna try talking him into accepting a two-way offer, though. In my opinion, he's a hard-nosed kid with a lot to offer, but he still has a lot to learn in the league. If someone were to get injured during the season, there's no doubt in my mind that Stastny's the guy the Blues are gonna look towards bringing up to fill that spot. As for making it out of camp, though, and onto the main roster, I think not. I hope the Blues can somehow persuade Stastny into accepting a two-way deal, because he'll be an asset down the road...just not this year. I think in the end, he'll accept the two-way offer and play in Peoria next season.
There's not really much to say about Matt Walker. He was a below average defenseman last season, and really didn't offer much to the team. Sorry Matt, don't let the door hit ya on the way out.
Letting this guy go somewhere else would be a crime. Backes has so much to offer to the Blues, and was such an asset to the team last season, that they can't afford to let him go. I believe he'll be one of the very first re-signed by the Blues.
This has nothing to do with McClement's ability, but more to do with the lack of roster spots. Jay is another hard-nosed, streaky player, but with TJ Oshie coming into the fold next season, I think McClement's spot is given to him. Under the right system, McClement can be an impact player...just not in St. Louis.
Woywitka will be part of the young defensive core going into the next few years. Brought in as part of the Chris Pronger deal a few years back, Woywitka has the capability of being a top defenseman in this league. So far, he has only gotten a few sniffs of the NHL. But with the whole 08-09 season to look forward to, we could begin to see what Woywitka is really made of.
Toivonen has already signed on to play with a team in Finland for next season, unless he gets a contract from an NHL team somewhere down the road. Toivonen has the skills to be an above average NHL goaltender, it's just putting those skills into play that's the problem for him. He was a nice backup to have until that fateful 9-5 loss to Colorado on December 9th that caused his downfall. From then on, he couldn't seem to regain his form and crumbled faster than a cookie drowned in milk. For now, he'll play in Finland, unless if another NHL team comes calling. The Blues, however, have already started looking in another direction for a backup goalie.
In a few days, I'll be posting some information on what lines TJ Oshie and Patrik Berglund will end up on beginning the 2008-09 season.
I will talk to you all later. Later Blues fans!