St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong had a front-row seat in Traverse City, Mich., last fall for the ugly imbroglio between the Columbus Blue Jackets and restricted free agent Ryan Johansen. It was during the annual prospect tournament there that Blue Jackets president John Davidson went on his epic tirade about Johansen and his agent, accusing them of trying to get the Blue Jackets front office fired.
Armstrong, at the time, was dealing with an RFA of his own in Jaden Schwartz and was openly talking about other prospects taking Schwatz’s spot if Schwartz was not signed by training camp. “We hope Jaden is there for camp, but as they say in Britain, ‘The King is dead. Long live the King,’ “ Armstrong said at the time. “Somebody is going to play if (Schwartz) doesn’t and I’ve never seen a 21- or 22-year old kid retire from hockey.”
Contrast that with Armstrong’s recent words concerning pending RFA Vladimir Tarasenko, a player the Blues took two picks after Schwartz in the 2010 NHL draft. Armstrong has made it crystal clear that while all players are created equal, some are more equal than others. A lot more equal. In hockey parlance, Armstrong might have just told Tarasenko and his camp to back the Brinks truck up to the Scottrade Center so they can all just start shoveling money into the back of it.
Armstrong made it clear that the Blues first and most pressing order of off-season business is to take care of Taransenko. That means there will be no bridge deal. You can basically use $6 million a year for eight years as the starting point in negotiations. And you guys waiting for contracts next season? Well, take your number and wait in line behind the golden boy.
“If it means allowing players to go to free agency,” Armstrong told media in St. Louis. “If it means making players sweat it on what their deals are going to be, he’s the priority.”