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02-22-2012, 01:46 PM
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PocketNines's Avatar
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There's a zero chance of adding a UFA like Suter and signing Jackman and re-signing Colaiacovo. Colaiacovo makes too much money for the return. The fact that Hitchcock benched him for two games when healthy over Russell should be telling as far as how cemented Russell is with that Polak pairing. Hitch uses their specific mix of skills in a very specific way in his system. In the NHL, Colaiacovo is just a guy. Not terrible, not special.

Jackman has been so strong this year that he's the Whipping Boy Who Wasn't. He will likely return on the same contract, considering his level of play when not being overexposed with 22+ minutes a night (20 is perfect). If the issue is Huskins at 1M or Colaiacovo at 2.5M it's not a contest. They might both be gone and have Cole play. It's either time to get him in the lineup regularly or trade him. I could see either.

I could also see them starting the year by doing little. They could well start out like this on D:

Cole (ELC) Pietrangelo (ELC)
Jackman (3.6) Shattenkirk (ELC)
Russell (1.3) Polak (2.75)
Huskins (1.0)

Fairchild in Peoria as a callup, maybe add a 9th player who can come up, maybe they give Ponich a look or two when injuries strike.

The operating theory here is they really give Cole a chance to play as a regular from the start of the season. Remember how Polak broke in? 19 games his first year, 6 games his next, then a regular in his third year of his ELC. Cole and Polak aren't the worst comparison. Both use their strength and mobility well. Polak is a bit bigger and faster, Cole has better offensive instincts.

The Blues will win a bunch of regular season games with that lineup. Whether that's how they go to the playoffs is another question. Cole's value as a trade chip would increase, and it's also entirely possible he turns out to be good. With the Blues on a budget, acquiring that bigger LD piece mid or most of the way through the season might make more financial sense.

Obviously if a player like Suter saw a situation he liked here (partnered with Pietrangelo is not a bad situation for any defenseman anywhere in the NHL), then of course you do that, and then you can use Cole as your 7th or re-sign Huskins. But we have to assume Suter isn't likely to happen, for all the multiple reasons we've already discussed and don't need rehashing.

Up front (using cap hits for ease):

Steen (3.36) Backes (4.5) Oshie (3.75)
McDonald (4.7) Berglund (2.25) Perron (3.75)
D'Agostini (1.65) Arnott (2.5) Tarasenko (ELC)
Crombeen (1.0) Sobotka (1.3) Reaves (0.6)
Grachev (.816), Porter (0.6) pending how Stewart's situation is resolved & D'Ags' health

Unknown: Stewart (3.25 QO)

Halak (3.75)
Elliott (1.8)

I think if they sign Tarasenko, Schwartz inks his pro contract, and they qualify Stewart, they don't have to be too active in free agency. They can see if folks like Suter, Parise, Grabovski are interested (if Grabovski signs, Arnott doesn't). I don't think this is a team any longer who will have trouble attracting or retaining free agents. It's a really good situation to come to, whether you're a vet like Arnott or Huskins or a prime-ager.

As long as this franchise keeps hitting with its first rounders and some later picks they should be able to maintain franchise stability and competitiveness for awhile w/o worrying about losing guys for money. I would not be shocked to see Stewart traded for a 1st rounder + quality bottom sixer. Heck, once McClement signs w/COL we can trade Stewart back for McClement and a 1st (trade then being EJ for Shattenkirk and Rattie).

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