Ryan O'Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko are slated to become unrestricted free agents next July. However, the St. Louis Blues could have difficulty re-signing the veteran forwards.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the Blues will have $15.95 million in cap space for 2023-24 under a projected $83.5-million ceiling with just 13 players already under contract. O'Reilly turns 32 in February and Tarasenko 31 in December. Each carries an average annual value of $7.5 million on their current contracts.
Thomas observed that O'Reilly remains among the league's elite two-way centers and seems to enjoy playing in St. Louis. Tarasenko, however, requested a trade last summer and reportedly didn't rescind it despite a career-best 84-point performance in 2021-22.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong told Thomas that he intends to let the season play out and see what happens with his free agents. Tarasenko could decide to test next summer's free-agent market. That would enable Armstrong to shop him by the March trade deadline and focus on signing O'Reilly to a contract extension.
O'Reilly's age could be a factor in those negotiations. Sportsnet's Jeff Marek last week suggested Nazem Kadri's seven-year, $49-million contract with the Calgary Flames as a comparable but colleague Elliotte Friedman doubted the Blues will do that.
Thomas wondered if O'Reilly would accept a pay cut to remain in St. Louis. He also believes the length of a new contract will be important to the Blues captain.
Armstrong didn't rule out holding contract talks during the season. If they do, he indicated they would be held behind closed doors.