It’s been more than a week since the St. Louis Blues’ season came to an end, and now that the dust has settled some, General Manager Doug Armstrong will get to work on shaping his roster for the 2022-23 season.
The Blues finished the regular-season with 109 points, which was tied for third-most in franchise history. In the playoffs, the club dispatched the higher-seeded Minnesota Wild in six games before falling to eventual Western Conference champion Colorado Avalanche in six games.
“Starting in September, (the team) had a focus to have a good regular season and they accomplished that,” Armstrong said in this media availability following the playoffs. “We played a very good Colorado team and weren’t able to get over the hump, (but) I thought [our team] played well and played with character.
“To the players and coaches, I want to thank them for a very good season, obviously the regular season – playoff disappointment is what it is. There’s only going to be one champion. We know we have to improve.”
With the offseason comes question marks – will big changes be needed or just slight tweaks? Will Armstrong be able to sign key unrestricted free agents like David Perron, Nick Leddy and Ville Husso? What about Vladimir Tarasenkowho has been the subject of public trade speculation for the better part of a year?
Armstrong was presented with those questions recently. Here’s what he had to say:
Do you think the team will need major tweaks before the 2022-23 season?
Armstrong: It does not need major tweaking. In a cap system, we’re in a really good spot for next season. We have so many returning players under contract. We have a couple of good players in Perron and Leddy and Husso (who aren’t signed), but we do have a lot of returning players. We’re excited about our American League team [the Springfield Thunderbirds], they’re undefeated in the playoffs right now in the Conference Finals. We have (Zachary) Bolduc and (Jake) Neighbors, our last two first-round picks, playing very good in their respective junior leagues trying to win a Memorial Cup.
There will be change, that’s just the nature of pro sports in a cap system. But I do like the group we’re bringing back.
Would you like to bring David Perron back next season?
Armstrong: I sure would. I feel like I’ve been here a long time and he precedes me. He’s been in and out over that term, but when I got here, he was here back in what, 2008? He’s been around a long time. He’s a hell of a player. He fights Father Time better than anyone, better than 95 to 99 percent of the NHL. What he did this year was spectacular. The injury he sustained in Chicago was nerve-wrecking for everyone involved. When he got back in here he showed what he can do down the stretch and into the playoffs. He’s a very good player, but more importantly he’s a better person. I’ve seen him grow, become a husband and a father, I see the influence he has on our younger players. They see the competitiveness he has on a daily basis. He’s a true pro and been a very good St. Louis Blue. If we can make it work out, I’d love to.
Video: Armstrong, Berube recap the season
What was your evaluation of Nick Leddy, who you acquired from the Detroit Red Wings at the trade deadline?
Armstrong: I thought he played very well for us. We understand what the salary cap is going to be, it’s locked in stone now. It’s just massaging it to get a number of good players back. I thought Nick came in here – look at our winning percentage since the trade deadline. He was a big part of that, he’s a calming influence, he’s experienced. He’s the player I thought our pro scouts told me he is was going to be. He came in here and he was that guy.
What about Ville Husso? Is it possible he would return next season?
Armstrong: Ville and I had a conversation. He put himself in a very good spot, had a great regular season. Obviously the playoffs were up and down for all of us, and he was put into a really difficult situation with the Colorado series (when Jordan Binnington was hurt). I’m a Ville Husso fan, and I told him I’d love for him to come back. But it’s a business for him, too. He’s put himself in a spot now where if he wants to test the market, I would understand it. It’s a long time between today and July 13 when [players] are allowed to hit free agency. We have some time to work on it.
Can you see a scenario where Perron, Leddy and Husso could all return this summer?
Armstrong: I wouldn’t say no. We’re going to go to work, that’s our job, to try to find a way to bring as many good players into the organization – whether they are here or from outside. The (salary) cap is the cap, everyone knows the numbers. If we can make it work, we will. We’re not just throwing our hands up in the air and saying we can not bring anyone back. That’s not how the St. Louis Blues have operated and that’s not how we’re going to operate moving forward. We’re going to try the best we can to put on the best team next year.
What about Vladimir Tarasenko?
Armstrong: I thought Vladi had a really good year. Big time players score big time goals, and I think what we saw this year was a healthy Vladimir Tarasenko. Even when he’s not scoring, the other team is nervous. When he’s on the ice, in any game or playoff series, he’s a circled player. If he’s not scoring, it opens up opportunities for other guys. I thought Vladi had a really good regular season, I thought he was a player we counted on in the playoffs and we always have and he always delivers. I’m not concerned about Vladi for next year at all.