I have read various reports about the status of defenseman Erik Johnson. Some have said he's fine, and others have said they've seen him walking around with a noticable limp. I honestly don't know what to expect, but if the MRI of Johnson's right knee tomorrow comes out not looking good, then expect the Blues to look elsewhere for help.
I just got done talking to a source close to the Blues, who says if Johnson happens to be out long-term, the Blues will look outside of the organization for help.
This is what he told me...
"Right now, the Blues don't have the guys capable enough of filling the hole EJ might leave."
In the offseason, the Blues signed defenseman Mike Weaver and Andy Wozniewski to contracts, but those contracts were given to fill a depleted Peoria roster. These guys are certainly NHL-caliber players, but not the type of defenseman needed to fill a gaping hole possibly left by Johnson. They will need a puck-moving defenseman that can help out scoring-wise on the power play. Johnson was beginning to become that type of player near the end of last season. Of course, coming straight out of college and trying to learn the pro game takes some time. After the first two to three months of the season, you could see Johnson's play significantly improve. All signs pinted to EJ having a breakout season with the Blues this year, but a freak accident on a golf course in the Lake of the Ozarks may have stopped that from happening.
The team was on a bonding trip down at the lake before the season was to begin. Johnson twisted his knee while trying to step on the brake in his golf cart. His right foot jammed in between the brake and the accelerator, and his knee got tangled up. He was able to finish the round, but afterwards, the knee swelled up significantly. The first MRI taken came out inconclusive because there was so much swelling in the knee. The team doctors decided that icing down the knee and resting it would be the best option until another MRI could be taken on Tuesday.
If it turns out Johnson is out long-term, expect the Blues to jump into the race for the services of Mathieu Schneider. The veteran defenseman is owed $6.5 million this year, and is a free-agent after the season. The Ducks put him on waivers, but he wasn't claimed. If and when they put him on re-entry waivers, it's believed about a half-dozen teams are said to be interested. The Blue are one of those teams, but interest has been minimal thus far. That could change, though, depending on the MRI results tomorrow.
When asked at the 2nd annual Blues FanFest about the possibility of the Blues acquiring Schneider, team President John Davidson didn't seem too enthusiastic. The team that claims Schneider through re-entry waivers is on the hook for half of the salary he is owed for the upcoming season, while the other half is owed by his previous employer, the Anaheim Ducks.
The fact that the Blues are cash-strapped, and would have to pay $2.25 million of Schneider's salary might be a point that Davidson would shy away from, but if you lose a star defenseman like Johnson, you'll need to pick up one in return. Schneider would be a perfect fit for the team, as he would help mentor some of the younger defenseman joining the team this season. Guys like Roman Polak, Steve Wagner, Jeff Woywitka, and Jonas Junland are very young and have a lot to learn about how to play in the NHL. They wouldn't be able to live up to the expectations that Johnson was supposed to set this season. Schneider would be the most obvious choice, veteran-wise, to fill the hole possibly left by the 20-year old defenseman.