Blues fans have been waiting for new ownership for two years, hoping that more resources could be pumped into the organization. Two months after taking over the club, Tom Stillman is aware of those expectations, but he’s also aware of the roster that he’s inheriting.
The Blues finished two points shy of the winning President’s Trophy, earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and advanced to the second round of the playoffs before falling to Los Angeles, the eventual Stanley Cup champion.
“It’s a team that last year put up 109 points, the second-most points in the National Hockey League,” Stillman said. “It’s a team that through the season and the playoffs learned a great deal about what it takes to be a better team. I think everybody likes our position. It doesn’t mean we might not do a little ‘this or that,’ but we’ve got a strong proposition there.”
Stillman acknowledged that the continued rise in the NHL salary cap causes issues for clubs like the Blues. The cap will be $70.2 million in 2012-13, a year after the Blues spent $54 million (under previous ownership). The budget might be increased this year, but only marginally.
“As the cap keeps going up, it makes it more difficult for a mid-market team to be competitive — that’s kind of stating the obvious,” Stillman said. “You have the revenues of a minority of the markets — the larger markets that are pulling that up because their revenue bases are so large — and yet we’re all subject to that same structure. It just makes it harder for a mid-market team to compete with the Torontos and the Montreals and the Philadelphias.
“I don’t see us being a cap team anytime soon, but we definitely can compete. If I thought we couldn’t put a contending team on the ice, I wouldn’t have done this.”
Stillman is keeping his eye on the future, though, because several of the Blues’ young core players will need new deals soon. Defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk are two of them.
“My responsibility is to the franchise and its health today and its stability long term,” Stillman said. “I have to make decisions based on that. That shouldn’t be read to mean that we’re not doing anything because we’ve got to be safe. Part of those considerations are ‘What do we have to do to put a competitive, contending team on the ice?’ But I believe we have provided a budget level to the hockey guys that enables them to put a competitive, contending team on the ice.”
— The Blues are looking for a defenseman to play with potential Norris candidate Alex Pietrangelo. Although Pietrangelo plays on the right side and a left-handed shot would be ideal, GM Doug Armstrong said the Blues aren’t necessarily seeking a lefty. “I think Petro could move to the left and play with (Kevin Shattenkirk),” Armstrong said. “I think he could move to the left and play with Roman (Polak) if he had to. He’s the guy that’s going to make whoever he plays with better. It’s more of a compliment to (Pietrangelo), but given an injury, I believe he can play, with his hockey sense, he could play wing if he wants. I hope I’m not putting too much pressure on him, but I think he’s an elite and special player. We’re lucky to have him.”
— Blues forwards T.J. Oshie, 25, and David Perron, 24, became restricted free agents on July 1, meaning they are permitted to sign offer sheets with other teams. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said that “isn’t something that is a concern to me at all. I’ve never been in fear of an offer sheet. It’s part of the system. You have a right to match it if you think the player’s worth the offer or you take the draft picks as compensation. So I’m not concerned about an offer sheet. It’s a tool in the (collective-bargaining agreement), and the players have the right to see if they can find one.”
— Former Blue Adam Oates had quite a day recently. Oates, who starred with Brett Hull in the late 1980s and early ’90s, was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame and named head coach of the Washington Capitals on the same day. Oates had the most points (1,420) of any player not in the Hall of Fame. “Obviously, an absolutely fantastic day,” Oates said. “I don’t know if that’s ever happened before. I have to go out and play Lotto, I think. Two huge honors. Obviously, I’m very excited about the coaching job. And to be called for the Hall of Fame, it’s just a special, special day for us.”
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I was really excited when I saw that (Vladimir Tarasenko) decided to come over. The draft is not successful until the guy comes over and plays in the NHL. People can say all they want after the draft, ‘Oh, that was a great pick.’ It’s not a great pick until he plays in the NHL and plays a lot.” — Former Blues scouting director Jarmo Kekalainen, who left the club shortly after drafting Tarasenko, a Russian prospect, No. 16 overall in 2010. Tarasenko recently signed an entry-level contract with the Blues and will play in the NHL in 2012-13.