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Blues know they might not keep all free agents after Stanley Cup victory

GM says it will take time to address Maroon, Gunnarsson, Binnington, among others

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

LAS VEGAS -- The St. Louis Blues won't be able to keep everyone who won the Stanley Cup.

"We'd like to bring as much of the band back together (as possible), but we understand that the whole band's not coming back," general manager Doug Armstrong said at NHL Awards Media Day on Tuesday.

The biggest questions are the futures of forward Pat Maroon and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, plus a contract for goalie Jordan Binnington. Maroon and Gunnarsson are among those who can become unrestricted free agents July 1; Binnington is among the pending restricted free agents.

Coach Craig Berube is also unsigned for next season, but Armstrong has said the only question is economics.

"When the press release goes out, that's when we'll have the announcement," Armstrong said.

It might take time to sort out everything.

The Blues won the Cup in Boston on Wednesday and had a parade in St. Louis on Saturday. A group of players flew to Las Vegas after the parade to celebrate.

The 2019 NHL Awards presented by Bridgestone are here on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN). Armstrong is a finalist for General Manager of the Year, Berube for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year, Binnington for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, and center Ryan O'Reilly for the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward and the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship and ability.

The 2019 NHL Draft is in Vancouver on Friday and Saturday, and the free agent interview period begins Sunday.

"Our focus is going to be getting through Friday and Saturday," Armstrong said. "That's just the reality of it. And then when we get back, we'll sit down. We don't expect to have anyone signed before the talking period, but that shouldn't alarm anyone. It's just sort of the nature of where we're at right now."

Video: Champion Moments: Blues win their first Stanley Cup

Armstrong does not expect to be active in the trade market at the draft after acquiring center Brayden Schenn from the Philadelphia Flyers on June 23, 2017, and O'Reilly from the Buffalo Sabres on July 1, 2018.

"I think the last two drafts, we've acquired players at the draft," Armstrong said. "We've given up first-round picks to do it. This year, we don't have [a first-round pick], and we don't have many unrestricted free agents, so our roster's relatively set."

Maroon, Gunnarsson, forward Chris Thorburn, defenseman Michael Del Zotto and goalie Jared Coreau each is a pending UFA. Binnington, defenseman Joel Edmundson and forwards Ivan Barbashev, Robby Fabbri, Zach Sanford, Oskar Sundqvist and Sammy Blais each is a pending RFA.

Asked if it would be possible to sign Maroon and Gunnarsson under the NHL salary cap with pending RFAs receiving raises, Armstrong said, "Obviously we've done our work on preparing for salary arbitration with our RFAs. We have an understanding (of) what that's going to take. We're going to sit down, and we're going to have to go over that over the next few days. It's just a math equation. It's really nothing more than that."

Asked about determining Binnington's value considering he hadn't started an NHL game before Jan. 7, Armstrong said, "I think that's what he and his agent and I have to sit down (to discuss). He's shown zero letup from Day One, from his first shutout (Jan. 7) to his Game 7 one-goal game (in the Cup Final). He's been consistent. He's been a strong competitor. He's got two years until he's an unrestricted free agent. We want to make sure that we do good by Jordan; he's done well by us. But also there has to … Longer resumes are easier to deal with."

Maroon grew up in the St. Louis area and scored in double overtime of Game 7 when the Blues defeated the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Second Round. Gunnarsson scored in OT in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. 

How will the Blues take emotion out of decisions? Armstrong referred to 1999, when he was assistant GM of the Stars, who won the Cup on June 19 and traded goalie Roman Turek to the Blues the next day to avoid losing him in the NHL Expansion Draft.

"You have to celebrate the good times," Armstrong said, "and then you have to do your job the rest of the time."


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