NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, the St. Louis Blues.
The St. Louis Blues will try to win the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons after making big changes at defenseman.
Colton Parayko is likely to become the No. 1 defenseman after the departure of captain Alex Pietrangelo, who signed a seven-year contract with the Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 12. Three days earlier, free agent Torey Krug agreed to a seven-year contract with the Blues.
Parayko, who will probably play with Krug on the top pair, averaged an NHL career-high 23:00 of ice time last season, second on the Blues to Pietrangelo (24:11). The 27-year-old scored 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 64 games, matching his total in 80 games the season before.
“He’s certainly the alpha male on our back end now with experience, size (6-foot-6, 230 pounds), strength and power,” general manager Doug Armstrong said. “He’s going to be provided an opportunity and we think he’s up to the challenge.”
The addition of Krug will help the power play, which was potent last season (24.3 percent, third in NHL). Armstrong said Krug balances their personnel of left- and right-handed defensemen, with Krug, Carl Gunnarsson, Vince Dunn and Marco Scandella on the left and Parayko, Justin Faulk and Robert Bortuzzo on the right.
“He adds an element of attack from the back end,” Armstrong said of Krug. “He’s got great escapability with the puck. I’m sure the forwards will enjoy playing with him because he gets it on their stick at the appropriate time and he’s a strong competitor. There are some smaller players who play away from traffic and play away from the harder areas. He’s not a player like that. I think he’s going to be a good complement to our team.”
St. Louis will begin this season without forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen. Tarasenko had shoulder surgery for the second time, in early September. He is expected to be reevaluated in February, and the Blues will be cautious in regard to his return. Armstrong said there is no timetable for Steen, who has an undisclosed injury, other than saying it will be a while before he does play.
“We don’t want to be penny-wise, pound-foolish on this one,” Armstrong said of Tarasenko, who played 10 games last season before having his initial shoulder surgery Oct. 29, 2019. “He’s such a great, talented player and he just adds a dynamic to our team that very few players add in the League, so we want to make sure when he gets back, he’s back for the long haul. He’s entering the part of his career where he’s been in the League now a number of years (eight NHL seasons, all with St. Louis), and we have to make sure he stays in the League a number of years after this.”
After trading goalie Jake Allen to the Montreal Canadiens on Sept. 2, Ville Husso will be the backup to No. 1 goalie Jordan Binnington. The 25-year-old was 16-17-8 with a 2.56 goals-against average, a .909 save percentage and four shutouts in 42 games for San Antonio of the American Hockey League last season.
This season is an opportunity for some younger players to take a bigger step, including Dunn, who is 24, and forwards Robert Thomas, 21, and Jordan Kyrou, 22.
“All young players go through it,” Armstrong said. “You want to be deemed ‘NHL player’ by playing in the League, then the next step is being an NHL player who’s being counted on by your team. We need those three, especially, and Husso to rise up and not just be surviving in the League but thriving in the League.”
The Blues hired Jim Montgomery as an assistant to coach Craig Berube on Sept. 16. Montgomery, who was 60-43-10 in two seasons as coach of the Dallas Stars before he was fired Dec. 10, 2019, due to unprofessional conduct, coached five seasons at the University of Denver (2013-18), where he won the NCAA men’s Division I championship in 2017.
The Blues hope to rebound this season after losing to the Vancouver Canucks in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round last season following a first-place finish in the conference (42-19-10, .662 points percentage). St. Louis won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 2019.
“We’re excited about the opportunity this year,” Armstrong said. “We lost Pietrangelo, but we added Krug. Other than that, there are a lot of similar players. With that also, some of our younger players are going to get a real good opportunity, and it’ll be nice to see what they can do.”