Ranking Free Agent Centers...best fit in St. Louis?
The Blues identified the center position as their area of need several weeks ago. Yesterday GM Doug Armstrong began working the phones.
The Blues can realistically go in one of two ways and in my opinion still get the same result.
It would be nice to grab one of the high-end centers available. The Blues need to find a way to increase the offensive production of their wingers and adding a center from this group would go a long way in helping the cause.
This group includes Mike Ribeiro, Valtteri Filppula, Stephen Weiss, Tyler Bozak, and Derek Roy.
For the record this is the order I rank this group. I have Roy last for a reason as I’m not certain where is game is nowadays. He’s left me wanting more the last several times I’ve watched him play.
The rest of the group fits in with how St. Louis plays. They’re all quality players who could become the Blues top center and push the current group down a notch. This means Backes, Berglund, and Sobotka could slide down a line. Sobotka is pretty interchangeable and could be used in a variety of ways.
In the case of Bozak, he’s similar to Backes in that he does everything very well. Personally I’m not sure it makes sense to spend the money he’s looking to command. He’s a good player but doesn’t give the Blues the playmaking ability this team truly needs especially at his asking price. There’s already speculation of him asking Toronto for 8 years, $40 million.
Filppula would fit in nicely but he’s also looking to get paid. Many believe he’s looking for $5 million a year. He, like Ribeiro, can play in all three zones, a necessity under Ken Hitchcock. Filppula brings versatility to his game as we’ve seen during his time with the Red Wings. He could be a 2nd or 3rd line center or a first line left winger depending on how a team chooses to use him.
The market has been set, especially with the 30 and older group, following the 5 year, $22.5 million contract Vincent Lecavalier just signed. You want to get one of these guys you’ll have no choice but to open up the wallet. Again the Lecavalier contract set the bar for what you’ll have to spend.
There’s always a chance a few of these guys price themselves out. You could have as many as ten teams chasing this group. Once the first domino goes down it will force other teams to overpay. Obviously there will be some teams left with nothing.
Again, the Blues are in a unique position. For those who think this team sucks and has no talent up front you probably won’t like this scenario. Thankfully you’re not in position to run an NHL club or make important decisions. I try living in reality and the Blues can still get the result they want by getting a player from the next tier of centers. This group obviously isn’t in position to command the same dollars as the top tier.
Of course if the Blues can add a top six center they’ll get their quicker but there is some quality depth out there as well.
The first choice would be 27 year-old Viktor Stalberg, an elite skater who plays the wing but can also play in the middle. He would give the Blues some options after his Stanley Cup run with Chicago.
Following Stalberg, Boyd Gordon (29), Maxim Lapierre (28), and Michal Handzus (36) finalize this group.
One player you’ll notice I haven’t mentioned is Danny Briere who was recently bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers. I see him more as a winger than a center as he showed last season playing in his own end can be a struggle. Good name, not a great fit for the Blues.
Goaltender Jaro Halak has remained in St. Louis this summer and is apparently in the best shape of his career. He’s taken his training to another level I’m told.
There have been some rumblings regarding Jarome Iginla but I can tell you the Blues aren’t eyeing him. St. Louis is fine on the wing and one source tells me “there’s no place for him.”
The Blues could always trade a goaltender in pre-season if they wanted to explore this option. Injuries come into play while teams get a better idea of what they have going into the season.
You can be sure the Alex Pietrangelo camp is trying to fetch an offer sheet for the former 4th overall pick. If you look around you see no elite defensemen available which leads some to believe it could happen.
Please settle down with the Perron to Montreal trade rumors at the draft. Never happened.
More to come,
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