Thursday, June 26, 2014

Blues active as draft, free agency loom

 By Andrew Allsman| Posted: June 26, 2014| Contact  |

The Blues, led by general manager Doug Armstrong, appear to have multiple lines in the water heading into Friday’s draft, and they’re hoping for at least one catch in the upcoming week.

On Wednesday, teams around the league began turning their attention to upcoming free agents, divvying their focus between two types of players, the ones available now, and the ones who will become available next Tuesday.

Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams now have a window prior to free agency, which begins on July 1 every year, to hold talks with upcoming unrestricted free agents. Teams are not allowed to reach deals with the players, but they can express interest and find out if it is mutual. They can also discuss parameters of a potential deal, as long as one is not agreed upon. That window opened on Wednesday, and the Blues were one of many teams who used it to get a head start.

According to multiple reports, the Blues were one of several teams who reached out to Colorado center Paul Stastny when the period opened on Wednesday. The Blues, who are in the market for a top center, contacted Stastny’s agent, Matt Keator, in an attempt to get a feel for the center’s asking price and interest in St. Louis.

Stastny, 28, will become a free agent on July 1, after deciding to test the market rather than sign a contract with the Avalanche prior to free agency. The two-time Olympian was born in Canada, but was raised in St. Louis, leading to the assumption that a return home would be a suitable situation for the forward.

Stastny is coming off of a five-year $33 million contract with the Avalanche and will hit the market for the first time in his eight-season career. Stastny has been open about his desire to return to Colorado, but it is expected that the forward will be offered more on the open market, and that Colorado, who has another expensive free agent in Ryan O’Reilly to re-sign, may not be willing to give Stastny the $6.6 million he has been earning since 2009.

After talks failed to gain any traction last week, Stastny decided to see what will be thrown at him by other teams on July 1. He will then circle back to Colorado and give the Avalanche the chance to match, or come close to the other offers before making a decision on his future.

"Paul’s first choice is to re-sign in Colorado but we’ll listen to what teams have to say and make an informed decision," Keator told on Wednesday. 

"Paul has been open about the fact he wants to stay in Denver," Keator told ESPN last Friday. "We will keep talking with Joe (Sakic) throughout the process and give them every chance to retain Paul. We will meet next week and see where things go." 

But already, through the first day of the new proclaimed ‘courting period’, Stastny has garnered interest from multiple teams, including the Blues.

Stastny, whose father Peter and brother Yan played in St. Louis, would give the Blues what they are looking for in a center. However, he would likely cost the team between $6-7 million. The Blues, who have a little over $21 million in cap space, could easily afford to add Stastny if he chooses to leave Colorado.

The center is coming off of a stellar 60-point season with the Avalanche. Since being drafted in the second round of the 2005 draft, Stastny has tallied 458 points (160 goals, 298 assists) in 538 games with Colorado. He has shined in international play, and showed this past postseason that he can produce in the playoffs. He’d be a great fit in St. Louis, but at this point, the Blues’ focus isn’t solely on the 28-year old.

Currently, the Blues are also engaged in talks with the Ottawa Senators for Jason Spezza. Spezza, 31, has one year remaining on his seven-year, $49 million contract, and the Senators are looking to move him by Friday’s draft.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted on Wednesday morning that the trade talks for Spezza were “heating up” and that four teams were involved in talks with Ottawa. It has been rumored that St. Louis and Anaheim lead the pack, and with Ottawa wanting a first-round draft pick as part of the compensation, it is suggested that a deal will in fact be completed by Friday.

If the Blues finalize a deal for Spezza it is speculated that it will center on Patrik Berglund with perhaps a prospect and the Blues’ 21st overall pick going Ottawa’s direction.

With less than 48 hours to Friday’s draft, and a little over 72 hours to the start of free agency, the Blues are looking for a trophy catch to bolster their lineup down the middle.