NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the St. Louis Blues.
The St. Louis Blues hope a nearly identical roster will help them repeat as Stanley Cup champions.
Coming off the first title in their 51-season history, the Blues didn't look outside the organization for free agents to bolster their roster, instead retaining their own restricted and unrestricted free agents.
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Forwards Sammy Blais (July 1) and Robby Fabbri (July 12) each agreed to a one-year contract; forward Oskar Sundqvist (July 21) agreed to a four-year contract; and goalie Jordan Binnington agreed to a two-year contract (July 13). Defenseman Joel Edmundson was awarded a one-year, $3.1 million contract by an independent arbitrator on Aug. 6, and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, who could have been an unrestricted free agent July 1, agreed to a two-year contract June 27.
"From a chemistry standpoint it does help for sure," said coach Craig Berube, who signed a three-year contract June 25. "I guess you don't want complacency to set in; I guess that could be a concern with pretty much the same roster coming back."
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The Blues lost two free agents: defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who did not play in a Stanley Cup Playoff game last season, signed with the Anaheim Ducks; and forward Pat Maroon, who signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
That leaves at least one forward spot open, which will be filled internally.
"Our young guys, they got to push the envelope here and come with a lot of energy early on in the season, that's going to be really important," Berube said. "We've got some young guys and some other players who will probably be fighting for a better spot in the lineup on a nightly basis, which is good, so I think we're going to have good competition in our group, which is good."
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong agreed.
"Younger players. Faster players," he said. "The game is evolving. The game is changing. We have to evolve and change. We have guys that want to hold their ice time, they want to hold their spot on the team. Guys on the team want to get a higher place in the pecking order of special teams. And younger players want jobs."
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St. Louis was in last place in the NHL standings on Jan. 3 before a stellar second half propelled them to the playoffs and eventually the Stanley Cup. This season, they won't be catching any teams off guard.
"We know we didn't get off to the start we wanted, but teams night in and night out, they're competitive and you're going to get a tough game no matter what, so I don't see this being any different than last year to be honest with you," Berube said.
The Blues open their season and will raise the Stanley Cup banner at Enterprise Center against the Washington Capitals on Oct 2.
"It's always in the back of your mind that it's short offseason and you don't have a lot of time to really get yourself in the best shape possible, but I think our guys have been pretty focused," Berube said. "We've been talking to them a lot about moving on from the Cup, getting over it and moving on and getting ready for the next season, so I think all that talk and things like that is important to get our guys ready for the next season."
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