There have been a lot of murmurs of late about the St. Louis Blues’ interest in Jonathan Drouin. There have also been rumors about the availability of star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. In short, nobody really knows what the Blues will look like come March, which is odd, considering they currently sit third in a competitive Central Division, 11 points clear of losing a playoff spot, and 10th in Score-Adjusted Corsi percentage.
But this uncertainty stems from the team’s salary situation. The Blues are a budget team, and one which, with this core of playoffs, has blown series leads and lost first round playoff series in consecutive years. Captain David Backes is a UFA this summer, and will likely command a huge raise despite nobody being quite clear on just how good he is. Shattenkirk is under contract at a reasonable $4.225 million for this year and next, but then he too will command a big salary, so it’s reasonable to entertain dealing him while he still has serious value.
Everybody knows all of this already, and I’m far from the first to discuss it, but there has recently been a new wrinkle added, and that is the situation with the St. Louis Rams.
After 20 years in St. Louis, the Rams are moving to LA for next season. A team that had been quite popular in the city, particular in the months of November-January, no longer exists. This is relevant because there is only one other major professional sports team playing in the months of November-June (potentially) now in St. Louis, and that is the Blues.
The hockey franchise, sitting 16th in NHL attendance this year, has an opportunity to convert former Rams fans to Blues fans, to open itself up to a brand new market. And knowing how fickle and impatient sports fans can be, this year may be the year it has to happen.
So I wonder how this changes the equation. There’s no doubt that the Blues are a good team with great pieces. More so than before, it may make sense to go for it in 2016, try and make a run and gain fans along the way, even if it means losing Backes for nothing and losing value on Shattenkirk going forward.
So what’s the takeaway? Especially when it comes to teams with internal caps, there can be considerations that aren’t present for other squads. Context can be everything. This may be one of those cases.