Cap crunch will make it tough for Blues to re-sign Ryan O’Reilly St. Louis Blues

It has been an costly summer time for the Blues, with $130 million in contract extensions doled out to younger forwards Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas.

Two Blues mainstays — captain Ryan O’Reilly and alternate captain Vladimir Tarasenko — have contracts that expire on the finish of this coming season. The similar is true for Ivan Barbashev, who’s coming off a 12 months wherein he set profession highs for objectives (26), assists (34) and factors (60). And defenseman Niko Mikkola, who will problem for an on a regular basis spot within the lineup.

Can the Blues signal all of them? Or signal any of them?

General supervisor Doug Armstrong and assistant basic supervisor Ryan Miller have labored some wage cap wizardry previously, however determining how to make the numbers work for the 2023-24 season will be a frightening job.

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“O’Reilly, Tarasenko, Barbashev, Mikkola — these guys are all gonna be UFAs,” Armstrong mentioned. “Right now, we’re simply gonna let the season play itself out, have these guys play.”

Does that imply there will be no negotiating throughout the season?

“It means if we do, we’ll do it behind closed doorways,” Armstrong mentioned, with fun. “That’s two main signings proper now (Thomas and Kyrou.) I have never seen these (different) guys this 12 months. Once camp begins we’ll stumble upon one another and we’ll discuss. But proper now, our focus is on this 12 months for positive. … But these are key gamers for us.”

That’s very true within the case of O’Reilly and Tarasenko. Since the blockbuster commerce that introduced him to St. Louis from Buffalo in 2018, O’Reilly has been the spine of the group.

He has scored 85 objectives with 165 assists over 4 seasons, been a beast within the faceoff circle and excelled on protection. Along the best way, he is been a two-time All-Star, received the Selke Trophy because the NHL’s finest defensive ahead. And, oh yeah, received the Conn Smythe for his work throughout the Blues’ Stanley Cup run in 2019.

Beyond that, O’Reilly appears to love taking part in for the Blues.

Which brings us to Tarasenko. A little bit greater than a 12 months in the past, he requested a commerce. It did not materialize however Tarasenko was something however a distraction with a formidable bounce-back season that included 34 objectives and 82 factors, each group highs.

But simply because the NHL draft got here and went this previous July, reviews surfaced that Tarasenko had not rescinded his commerce demand. Even so, a commerce doesn’t seem to be on the horizon. It stays to be seen if Tarasenko will stay the great soldier that he was final season.

Both gamers rely $7.5 million in opposition to the Blues’ wage cap this coming season, encompassing about 18% of the group’s cap. O’Reilly turns 32 in February; Tarasenko turns 31. So irrespective of the place they signal for subsequent season, we’re not speaking about eight-year offers as was the case with each Kyrou and Thomas.

Granted, there was nothing typical concerning the Tarasenko state of affairs over the past year-plus. But typical knowledge says if the Blues are going to signal one of many two, it figures to be the man who needs to be in St. Louis (O’Reilly) somewhat than the one who does not (Tarasenko).

Unfortunately for the Blues, it takes some creativeness to see even a type of two group cornerstones returning after this season. Here’s why:

Tuesday’s contract extension for Kyrou leaves the Blues with $67.55 million already dedicated to their wage cap for the 2023-24 season.

With a projected cap of $83.5 million, that leaves the Blues with solely $15.95 million of cap house for ’23-24 — and solely 13 gamers underneath contract. That NHL roster restrict is 23 gamers, though some groups carry 22 from time to time.

So how do the Blues add 10 (or 9) gamers to their 2023-24 roster for a mixed value of $15.95 million?

If O’Reilly returns on a brand new contract with the identical $7.5 million cap rely, that leaves a mere $8.45 million in cap house to signal 9 (or eight) extra gamers to fill out the roster.

Given his age, would O’Reilly take much less on a brand new contract? And how a lot much less — $6 million, $6.5 million, $7 million a 12 months? Term may very well be a problem in a brand new O’Reilly contract as properly. As somebody who trains religiously and takes care of his physique, would O’Reilly take a four-year deal? Or would he need extra years?

“I believe everyone knows the wage cap is the wage cap,” Armstrong mentioned. “It is what it is. The league signed up for it, however so did the gamers. The gamers signed up for the wage cap, in order that they have to cope with the ramifications like groups do.”

In that vein, Armstrong had to select between re-signing defenseman Nick Leddy and ahead David Perron throughout the offseason. He selected Leddy, to the chagrin of many Blues followers.

That may very well be merely a warmup act for what Armstrong may be going through in about 10 months, when the following free company interval rolls round.

“If the cap stays flat, which it appears like it will — or goes up by one million ({dollars}) — we’re gonna have onerous selections to make,” Armstrong mentioned. “But that is our job — to make onerous selections.

“And we’re not the one group within the league that has to make onerous selections. You have a look at the Stanley Cup champions, they misplaced an incredible participant in (Nazem) Kadri and a goalie (Darcy Kuemper).”

With a cap crunch of their very own, the Colorado Avalanche couldn’t afford to re-sign both member of their championship squad.

The Vegas Golden Knights had to minimize ties with former all-star Max Pacioretty. Tampa Bay had extra free-agent departures this offseason. It’s the best way of the world, due largely to the coronavirus pandemic, which led to income shortfalls that prompted a flat cap. Sixteen groups — or half the league — are in worse cap form than St. Louis.

But that does not make the approaching cap crunch any simpler for the Blues.

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