The St. Louis Blues head into tonight’s game at a serious disadvantage. Not only has the team lost two in a row and now has to play a second consecutive match against the league’s best team (by points percentage) in the Florida Panthers, but they’ll have to do it shorthanded. The Blues will dress just ten forwards tonight along with seven defensemen, because of the precarious cap situation they find themselves in.
Already using almost all of the long-term injured reserve relief from Klim Kostin and James Neal, the Blues have just over $113K in available cap space according to CapFriendly. That’s not enough to make a recall, and with Robert Thomas missing the game due to injury, they don’t have enough healthy, active players to suit up tonight. Already the team is using an emergency goaltending exemption for Charlie Lindgren–who was called up instead of Joel Hofer because of the difference in salary between the two–after Jordan Binnington joined Tyler Bozak in the COVID protocol.
To secure that cap-free exemption they had to have Kyle Konin, a 23-year-old netminder who last played competitive hockey at Grand Valley State University in 2020, serve as Ville Husso’s backup against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now they’ll have to play a man short once again, in order to secure a second recall exemption to bring up an additional forward for Thursday’s game against Detroit.
This new exemption will allow them to recall a player without incurring a cap hit, but there are restrictions on it too. Only players with a cap hit of $850K or less can be brought up, meaning someone like Mackenzie MacEachern is out of the question. The risky part isn’t necessarily playing a man down, it’s that things could get even more complicated for St. Louis if another player suffers a minor injury. Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic ponders on Twitter about Thomas’ injury and whether he has been forcing himself to play through it because of his team’s cap situation.
Kostin did skate today, according to Rutherford, but he won’t be eligible to play for another five games because of his LTIR designation. There’s not a quick fix coming for the Blues and things could get worse if anyone else goes down, or is forced to enter the COVID protocol.