Overpaying for talent has never been considered a smart move. If you take a look at past moves by other clubs you see Dennis Wideman getting a $5.25 million per year, five-year contract, you see Scott Gomez being paid $51.5 million for seven years, and you see Rick DiPietro inked to a 15-year $67.5 million contract. Sure, you have to spend to improve, but the difference with the Blues is that the Note have learned to spend wisely and remain competitive.
This is obviously not stating that every National Hockey League team is inferior to the Blues when it comes to wise spending, but it has become a trademark to see General Manager Doug Armstrong refrain from entering a bidding war for top name free agents. Lack of finances has forced the Blues out of the running for top players year after year, but even this year with new ownership taking over, the Blues remained, for the most part, quiet.
While Calgary inked Dennis Wideman, Vancouver secured Jason Garrison, and Matt Carle signed with the Lightning, the Blues appeared to not even be remotely interested. Yes, the Blues took a run at Matt Carle and came up unsuccessful, but it wasn't the players that the Blues were uninterested in, it was the amount of money and the length.
Wideman was signed to a six-year contract worth $5.25 million, Garrison got a six-year contract as well, but his was worth $27.6 million. Then on Wednesday, after the big fish Ryan Suter signed in Minnesota, Matt Carle was snatched up by the Lightning with a six-year $33 million deal. All of these signings have a similar theme: Pricey and Lengthy. These contracts are not attractive to the Blues who are recovering financially, and still looking within their organization for players to step up.
The search for a top-four defenseman is ongoing, but it appears that the best option may be to trade for one. The Blues have a wealth of talent at the forward position, but it's hard to part with any of their top-six forwards which are likely to be the asking price for a good defenseman. Names that stand out as attractive candidates to play with Alex Pietrangelo are: Coyotes' Keith Yandle, and Flames' Jay Bouwmeester. The Flames are reportedly not shopping Jay Bouwmeester, but if they were to get an offer that sends a top-six forward their way, it would be hard for them to turn it down. Bouwmeester has two years remaining on his contract and is paid $6.6 million per year. It may sound pricey, but the length is perfect for the Blues who, in two years, will likely have more of an idea where their finances stand long term. Yandle is the other name that the Blues would love to have on the roster slotted in next to Pietrangelo, but the asking price for him would be much higher, and would likely involve the Blues sending a center to Phoenix. Yandle recently signed a five-year contract that has a cap hit of $5.25 million per year and locks him up until the 2015-16 season. He is a much more attractive acquisition, but it will be hard to pry him out of the Coyotes' hands.
It was not likely that Armstrong was able to lock up anybody via free agency. The market was too weak, and the options became pricey too fast for his liking. Armstrong is well known for his patience and ability to find other ways to improve his club. A trade is something he would prefer over signing a free agent to a long term, expensive contract in which the player is overpaid. It is not time for fans to panic, Armstrong has given no reason to. He has assured fans multiple times that the team is very interested in getting a top defenseman and he has stated that their are several ways to do it. It's early and Armstrong is undoubtedly kicking the tires to see what the asking price is for defensemen he would like to add.
The Blues' lack of signings this season in free agency have caused panic among some fans because it is viewed as unwillingness to spend money to better the team. This is not the case. The organization needs to spend wisely while they try to get out of the financial hole they fell into under former owner Dave Checketts. Armstrong has been presented with a budget bigger than last season's and he will look for the smartest way(s) to spend it. The Blues are not in a position to spend ungodly amounts of money for the sake of being active and now it is up to Armstrong to find another way to acquire a partner for Pietrangelo. In a few years the Blues may be able to spend for top talent and compete with other teams for their services, but right now it is just not possible. The Blues are an organization that will be good for a long time because they were able to build from within. Spending money is not something the Blues have done a lot of in the past, and yet they remain competitive now because they have built up a strong core of young talented players. Now they look to improve by adding a few pieces. In the end a trade was likely the best option anyways because it will involve sending a contract to another team. Hopefully in a few years the Blues have climbed out of the hole and are able to spend more money, but right now their system is working so why panic and ask for them to change in order to be active. Armstrong is the 2012 General Manager of the Year, he didn't get there by doing nothing. Give him time to work and see what he can pull off this offseason.