David Backes (Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)
The Blues have important decisions to make on free agents like David Backes, and also what to do with coach Ken Hitchcock.
Having come up short in their quest to reach the Stanley Cup final for the first time in 46 years, the St. Louis Blues face a possible off-season of change.
ESPN.com's Craig Custance believes the Blues should re-sign coach Ken Hitchcock to another one-year contract. He cites how Hitchcock guided the club to their first Western Conference final in 15 years and how they also overcame injuries to key players during the regular season.
TSN's Darren Dreger, however, speculates Hitchcock's tenure in St. Louis could be coming to an end. He believes certain coaches, such as Hitchcock, have a shelf life, suggesting he may have squeezed all he could out of the Blues players.
Custance also thinks the Blues should re-sign captain David Backes, who was among the standouts during their post-season run. He also feels right winger Troy Brouwer's performance has priced him out of St. Louis.
Backes, 32, and Brouwer, 30, both had impressive playoff performances, which should bolster their value in the free-agent market. However, they're also in a period of their careers where skills decline.
Earlier this season, Backes reportedly rejected a three-year contract offer from the Blues worth $5.5-million annually. It'll be interesting to see if both sides revisit that deal. Brouwer's coming off a three-year deal at an average salary-cap hit of $3.66 million. It could cost around $4.5-million per season to keep him in St. Louis.
Another Custance suggestion is trading either Kevin Shattenkirk or Jay Bouwmeester. The 32-year-old Bouwmeester is under contract at $5.4-million annually through 2018-19, making him difficult to move. Shattenkirk, 27, has one season left on his deal and is eligible for unrestricted free agency next July. He'll seek a substantial raise over his current cap hit of $4.25 million.
Custance believes the Edmonton Oilers, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings could be interested in acquiring a right-handed defenseman such as Shattenkirk. Given his puck-moving skills, he could fetch a nice return for the Blues via trade this summer.
The Bruins and Oilers could be the keenest suitors for Shattenkirk, as both clubs are in desperate need of blueline help. CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty reports there's plenty of speculation linking the Bruins to Shattenkirk.
As for the Oilers, they have depth in skilled young wingers to offer to St. Louis to replace Backes or Brouwer if one of them departs via free agency in July. Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov were fixtures in this season's trade-rumor mill. The Oilers also have the fourth-overall pick in the upcoming NHL draft to dangle as bait, perhaps by packaging it with one of those wingers.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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