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Blues Offseason Comes with Challenges

by Andy Strickland / St. Louis Blues
Every offseason in the NHL, team executives are forced to make difficult decisions when it comes to shaping their roster for the following year.

In today’s game, with the salary cap playing a factor, most clubs see plenty of turnover from one season to the next.

The 2008-2009 roster for the St. Louis Blues could bring several new faces as the Blues continue to rebuild and reshape the organization. Let’s breakdown the Blues and look at who may and may not return next fall.

Ryan Johnson is one of the biggest decisions the Blues must make when it comes to players currently without a contract.
Unrestricted Free Agents: The Blues have until July 1 to decide if they want to re-sign the following players. If these players are not re-signed they will be free to sign with any NHL club they want.

Mike Johnson- Missed most of the season after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. His rehab is going as planned and he has yet to decide whether or not he’ll attempt to play in the NHL next season. He will continue to strengthen his shoulder through the summer in Toronto.

Ryan Johnson- The Blues have a difficult decision to make regarding Ryan Johnson. After leading the league in blocked shots among NHL forwards, Johnson proved his value on the penalty kill as well as being a quality face-off man. Johnson’s value has never been as high as it will be come July 1.

Martin Rucinsky- Respected across the NHL as one of the Godfather’s of Czech hockey players, Rucinsky may have played his final season in the NHL. There is a strong possibility Rucinsky finishes his professional hockey career in his native Czech Republic.

Matt Walker- A hard-nosed D-man who brings toughness to any NHL blue line, Walker was primarily used as a depth defenseman this season. His future with the Blues is certainly up in the air.

Restricted Free Agents: Players who are no longer considered entry-level but do not qualify as unrestricted free agents become restricted free agents when their contracts expire.

David Backes- The Blues will no doubt extend a qualifying offer to Backes who emerged this season as one of the more physical players on the club. The team may look to lock up the former 2nd round pick long-term.

Hannu Toivonen- The Blues backup goaltender got off to a nice start this season before struggling to find his game. He has demonstrated more consistency in Peoria, where the 23-year-old could very well begin his season next fall.

Jay McClement- Just completed his third NHL season for the team who drafted him in 2001, he saw his production take a dip this season from his 37 point performance a season ago. The Blues will look for him to bounce back next season.

Andy Strickland expects the Blues will try to lock forward David Backes up long-term.
Jeff Woywitka- If there was one thing Jeff Woywitka was hoping to prove this season, it was that he belonged in the NHL. After the trade deadline Woywitka was given an opportunity to be a regular in the lineup and he took full advantage. The former first round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers will be given strong consideration to earn a roster spot next fall.

Help In Peoria?

There are a few players who played most of the season in Peoria who will have a strong chance to make the Blues next year.

Chris Porter- He’s a hard working forward the Blues are hoping can develop into a good third or fourth line player down the road. The former University of North Dakota Captain registered 12 goals and 25 assists for 37 points this season in Peoria.

Roman Polak- Overcame a severe ankle injury in Peoria to appear in six games for the Blues down the stretch. Polak is built like a tank and appears physically ready to play in the NHL. He’ll have decent shot at making the club.

Steve Wagner-  Along with rookie David Perron, Wagner was one of the bright surprises coming out of training camp last September. His skating and passing ability make him a likely candidate to make the roster next season. The Blues remain very high on this prospect who played 24 games for the Blues this season.

Yan Stastny- Will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 if the Blues don’t offer Stastny a contract extension. The St. Louis native played 12 games with his hometown team this season.

College Kids?

Blues fans are anxiously awaiting the arrival of North Dakota prospect T.J. Oshie. The Blues 2005 first round selection is expected to leave school and sign an entry level deal with the Blues.

Help Overseas?

Patrik Berglund- 2006 first rounder Patrik Berglund has impressed hockey people all over the world with his dynamic offensive ability and could be inserted as the Blues top center next year. He played professionally this season in Sweden and is ready to face the challenge that comes with playing in the toughest league in the world.

Lars Eller-  The Blues will try to sign their 2007 first round pick this summer. This season Eller led his junior team to a championship and should have an opportunity to compete for a spot in training camp.


If there’s a player under the radar that seems to receive very little attention it’s Swedish defenseman Jonas Junland. The Blues third round pick in 2006 is currently playing in the Swedish Elite League finals with his club team Linkoping

Free Agency- The Blues will obviously explore free agency to see if there are any players who can help the franchise moving forward.

Andy Strickland is a contributor to

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