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Team Reset

Blues turning page after key players depart

St. Louis may play different style in Ken Hitchcock's final season as coach

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the St. Louis Blues:

The St. Louis Blues came within two wins of advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970 last season, but when training camp opens in September, they'll have a very different look.

Goaltender Brian Elliott, who led the NHL with a .930 save percentage, was traded to the Calgary Flames on June 24. On July 1, David Backes, who had been captain since 2011, signed with the Boston Bruins in free agency.

The Blues also lost veteran forward Troy Brouwer, the only St. Louis player to skate in every game last season, when he signed with the Flames in free agency on July 1.

"I think we are going to play differently," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said on 920 AM in St. Louis on July 7. "We are obviously not as big as we were in the past, and the coaching staff is going to have to adjust to the system. But I think it can be a good team. Again, I'm not sure how we are going to respond to it. Backes was our captain and that was a big player for us, so I'm waiting to see who is going to grab control of the team and be that go-to player up in the front. They aren't going to play the same style as David, but we are going to have to play differently.

"There are probably more questions going into this year than years past, but as an organization we felt it was the appropriate time to turn the page."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock announced he will retire after the season. Mike Yeo was hired as an associate coach and will replace Hitchcock for the 2017-18 season. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and forwards Alexander Steen and Patrik Berglund each will be playing the final season of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent next July, meaning there could be more changes coming. 

"We understand that we have turned a page and given the leadership and a big chunk of the team to the younger generation," Armstrong said. "We understand that you may have to take a half a step back to take two steps forward."

Here is what the Blues look like today:

Video: ANA@CHI: Perron fires it past Crawford to break tie

KEY ARRIVALS: Mike Yeo, associate coach: The former Minnesota Wild coach was hired June 13. Yeo led the Wild into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in three of his four full seasons. … David Perron, LW: The veteran forward signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract July 1 to return to the Blues. He was selected by St. Louis with the 26th pick of the 2007 NHL Draft and played his first six seasons there. Last season, he had 12 goals and 36 points in 71 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks, and three points in seven playoff games for Anaheim. … Carter Hutton, G: The 30-year-old signed a two-year, $2.25 million contract July 1 to be the backup to Jake Allen. Hutton had spent the previous two seasons backing up Pekka Rinne with the Nashville Predators. He had a 2.33 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in 17 games last season. … Landon Ferraro, C: The 24-year-old forward signed a one-year, two-way contract July 8. He had five goals and 10 points in 68 games with the Detroit Red Wings and Bruins last season. He could compete for a spot on the fourth line or start with Chicago of the American Hockey League.

Video: SJS@STL, Gm1: Backes opens the scoring late in 1st

KEY DEPARTURES: David Backes, C: The 32-year-old forward signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Bruins. He was second on the Blues last season with 21 goals. In 10 seasons, he had 206 goals and 460 points, each sixth-best in Blues history. Brian Elliott, G: Elliott had split time the past three seasons with Allen. Since joining the Blues in 2011, his 2.01 GAA is the best among goaltenders to play at least 100 games, and his .925 save percentage and 25 shutouts are second. … Troy Brouwer, RW: The veteran forward had 18 goals and 39 points in the regular season, and 13 points in 20 playoff games. … Steve Ott, C: The fourth-line forward missed most of last season because of torn hamstrings. The 33-year-old signed a one-year contract with the Red Wings on July 1. … Anders Nilsson, G: The rights to the restricted free agent were traded to the Buffalo Sabres on July 2. He played three games for the Blues last season after being claimed off waivers from the Edmonton Oilers. … Kirk Muller, assistant coach: Muller oversaw the power play in his two seasons with the Blues, and it ranked second in the League in that span at 21.9 percent. He resigned June 1 and was hired as associate coach of the Montreal Canadiens on June 2.

ON THE CUSP: Jordan Schmaltz, D: The 25th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft had a strong first professional season with six goals and 36 points in 71 AHL games with Chicago. The Blues might want the 22-year-old puck-mover to get more AHL experience, but a strong training camp could put him in the discussion for an NHL promotion. … Ivan Barbashev, C: The 2014 second-round pick (No. 33) made his professional debut in the AHL last season and had 10 goals and 28 points. With Backes' departure, there could be room for a young center to find an NHL spot, but it's likely he spends at least one more season in the AHL.

Video: STL@CHI, Gm4: Schwartz finds puck, pots go-ahead goal

WHAT THEY STILL NEED: Secondary scoring. Vladimir Tarasenko's 40 goals were fourth in the League, but the only other Blues player with at least 20 was Backes (21), and after Tarasenko's 74 points, the only other player with at least 50 was Steen (52). The Blues need more from the rest of the roster, and having some key players remain healthy will help. Jaden Schwartz had 28 goals and 63 points in 2014-15 but was limited to 33 games last season because of a broken ankle. Berglund, a two-time 20-goal scorer, missed the first half of last season recovering from shoulder surgery. Paul Stastny had 49 points in 64 games and missed six weeks because of a broken foot sustained in October. The maturation of forward Robby Fabbri, who had 18 goals as a rookie, also will keep Tarasenko from having to be a one-man show. … Allen must prove he's an undisputed No. 1 goaltender. The Blues traded Elliott then signed Allen to a four-year, $17.4 million contract extension July 1, cementing his spot. Allen has a 2.34 GAA in parts of three seasons but has never played more than 47 games. That number probably will be closer to 60 this season, and his performance likely will dictate where the Blues finish in the standings. 

PETE JENSEN'S FANTASY FOCUS: Backes' departure leaves a void in the Blues' top-nine forward group, and the line combinations remain up in the air. But outside of Tarasenko, the Blues likely will prioritize Fabbri, 20, after his run of 15 points in 20 postseason games. Five of Fabbri's 15 playoff points came on the power play, and he should bridge the gap for a Blues offense that lost Brouwer to free agency. Fabbri should be considered a top-75 fantasy forward and is worth taking as early as the 10th round in 12-team drafts. If Fabbri emerges as the top-line left wing opposite Tarasenko, his production could soar.

PROJECTED LINEUP

Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - David Perron

Robby Fabbri - Patrik Berglund - Dmitrij Jaskin

Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk 

Joel Edmundson - Colton Parayko

Jake Allen

Carter Hutton

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