How much of an upgrade can the Blues afford?
Free agency begins on July 28th, nearly a month later than usual. It concludes a busy back-end of July, after the Expansion Draft and Entry Draft further give GMs an idea of what they have to work with cap wise.
Doug Armstrong has tough decisions going into the free agency period. On the one hand, how much will re-signing Jaden Schwartz, Tyler Bozak, and Mike Hoffman cost – and will it be worth it?
On the other hand, not everyone’s coming back. If the Blues re-sign Schwartz, but don’t extend a contract to Hoffman, there’s a pressing need to strengthen the team on the left side. The Blues have two paths here: let Klim Kostin finally stick with the club or pursue a UFA left winger.
There’s a clear argument for either side, but for the purpose of this article, let’s pretend that the Blues decided on the latter option. Let’s also make the assumption that Avalanche GM Joe Sakic won’t be able to re-sign captain Gabriel Landeskog. There’s hope that Landeskog gets locked into a reasonable deal by the Avs, with the team making it a focus this off-season to be taken care of after the expansion draft.
So yes, the basis of this are several assumptions, but since no one writing about free agency owns a crystal ball, that’s the best we’re going to be able to work with for any speculative article on the internet during the off-season.
The Blues being able to sign Landeskog under the noses of Avalanche brass would be a coup. The Blues lack a truly elite left wing, which is a weakness that needs to be addressed this summer, and Landeskog is the most elite left wing that will be available (not counting Alexander Ovechkin, who the Caps will never not re-sign).
Landeskog has, in a full traditional season, only dipped below 20 goals once (2016-2017). In 2018-2019, the last full season played, Landeskog finished with 34 goals and 41 assists, 27 of those points coming on the power play.
Last season, Landeskog finished the year with 20 goals and 32 assists, and 15 power play points. The highest scoring left wing on the Blues last season, Mike Hoffman, finished the season with 17 goals and 19 assists (17 on the power play). With the addition of Landeskog, the Blues could replace Hoffman’s numbers while adding extra punch at regular strength.
Landeskog’s expiring contract was a seven year term with a reasonable AAV of just $6,500,000. Unsurprisingly, Landeskog will want a raise from whatever team signs him, and that may be the rub with the Blues signing him. So much is contingent upon who the team feels comfortable bringing back and who the Kraken select in the expansion draft. If the Blues decide to take a pass on Jaden Schwartz, and they feel Kostin is ready, then Landeskog is fiscally doable.
Signing Landeskog would be valuable not just in terms of scoring for the Blues. It would prevent him from scoring on the Blues. This last season he had three goals and six assists in eight games; over the course of his career he has scored seven goals and 22 assists in 46 games against the Blues. Landeskog leaving the Avalanche would shake up their top line and leave Nathan MacKinnon without his partner in crime.
If Armstrong wants to keep up with the Avalanche, maybe signing their top free agent is the kind of 4-D chess the Blues need this off-season.