It’s been over a week since the St. Louis Blues season ended, and now that the dust has settled, general manager Doug Armstrong will get to work shaping his roster for the 2022-23 season.
The Blues finished the regular season with 109 points, which was tied for third most in franchise history. In the playoffs, the club dispatched the top-seeded Minnesota Wild in six games before falling to eventual Western Conference champion Colorado Avalanche in six games. .
“Starting in September, (the team) aimed to have a good regular season and they achieved that,” Armstrong said in that post-playoff press briefing. “We played against a very good team from Colorado and we couldn’t overcome the difficulty, (but) I thought [our team] well done and played with character.
“To the players and coaches, I want to thank them for a very good season, obviously the regular season – playoff disappointment is what it is. There will only be one champion. We know we have to improve ourselves.”
With the off-season comes question marks – will big changes be needed or just slight tweaks? Will Armstrong be able to sign key unrestricted free agents like David Peron, Nick Leddy and City Husso? What about Vladimir Tarasenkowhich has been the subject of public trade speculation for much of the year?
Armstrong was recently confronted with these questions. Here is what he had to say:
Do you think the team will need major adjustments ahead of the 2022-23 season?
Armstrong: It doesn’t need major tweaking. In a cap system, we are really well placed for next season. We have so many returning players under contract. We have some good players in Perron and Leddy and Husso (who are unsigned), but we have a lot of returning players. We are thrilled with our American League team [the Springfield Thunderbirds], they are undefeated in the playoffs right now in the conference finals. We have (Zachary) Bolduc and (Jake) Neighbors, our last two first-round picks, who are playing very well in their respective junior leagues and trying to win a Memorial Cup.
There will be change, it’s just the nature of professional sports in a cap system. But I like the group we’re bringing back.
Would you like to bring David Perron back next season?
Armstrong: I certainly would. I feel like I’ve been here a long time and he precedes me. He’s been back and forth during this term, but when I got here he was here in what, 2008? He’s been there a long time. He’s a hell of a player. He fights Father Time better than anyone, better than 95-99% of the NHL. What he did this year was spectacular. The injury he suffered in Chicago was hard on everyone involved. When he came back here he showed what he could do in stride and in the playoffs. He is a very good player, but above all he is a better person. I saw him grow up, become a husband and a father, I see the influence he has on our young players. They see its competitiveness on a daily basis. He’s a real pro and he’s been a really good St. Louis Blue. If we can make it work, I’d love to.
Video: Armstrong and Berube recap the season
What was your assessment of Nick Leddy, whom you acquired from the Detroit Red Wings at the trade deadline?
Armstrong: I think he played very well for us. We understand what the salary cap will be, it’s now set in stone. It is enough to massage it to recover a certain number of good players. I thought Nick came here – look at our winning percentage since the trade deadline. He played an important role in that, he has a calming influence, he has experience. He’s the player I thought our professional scouts told me he was going to be. He came here and he was that guy.
And Ville Husso? Is it possible that he will return next season?
Armstrong: Ville and I had a conversation. He put himself in a very good position, had a good regular season. Obviously the playoffs were ups and downs for all of us, and he was put in a really tough spot with the Colorado series (when Jordan Binington was injured). I’m a Ville Husso fan and I told him that I would like him to come back. But it’s also a business for him. He put himself in a situation where if he wants to test the market, I would understand him. A long time has passed between today and July 13 when [players] are allowed to hit free agency. We have some time to work on it.
Can you see a scenario where Perron, Leddy and Husso could all return this summer?
Armstrong: I would not say no. We are going to get to work, it is our job, to try to find a way to bring as many good players as possible into the organization – whether they are here or from outside. The ceiling (salary) is the ceiling, everyone knows the numbers. If we can make it work, we will. We don’t just throw our hands up and say we can’t bring anyone back. That’s not how the St. Louis Blues have operated and that’s not how we’re going to operate in the future. We will do our best to form the best team next year.
And Vladimir Tarasenko?
Armstrong: I thought Vladi had a very good year. Great players score important goals, and I think what we saw this year was a healthy Vladimir Tarasenko. Even when he doesn’t score, the other team is nervous. When he’s on the ice, in any game or playoff series, he’s a surrounded player. If he doesn’t score, it opens up opportunities for other players. I thought Vladi had a really good regular season, I thought he was a player we relied on in the playoffs and we always did and he always delivers. I am not at all worried about Vladi for next year.