When the off-season rolls around, the Blues may be looking to add up front but their blueline looks to be set.
St. Louis announced Friday night they have inked defenseman Carl Gunnarsson to a three-year, $8.7-million deal that will keep the free agent-to-be off the open market come July 1. Gunnarsson, 29, is one of the few Blues rearguards who has been able to stay healthy for much of the season, and while his production has been down, he’s been as steady as the team could have hoped.
The Blues defense has been one of the most complete units over the past few seasons, and keeping Gunnarsson in town continues that. St. Louis now has each of Gunnarsson, Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Kevin Shattenkirk, Robert Bortuzzo and Colton Parayko locked up for next season.
While Gunnarsson isn’t a top pairing or top-four defenseman in St. Louis any longer, he has performed well in his limited roll in St. Louis. He’s averaging 17:36 per game for the Blues and he’s moved through a number of roles, especially with the injuries St. Louis has had to deal with this season. That he’s no longer a regular top-four pairing defenseman, however, is evident in that he’s going to be taking a pay cut to stay with the Blues: his overall salary is going to decrease by $250,000 and his cap hit decreasing by $50,000 per season with the Blues.
Gunnarsson’s signing shouldn’t put the Blues in any salary cap trouble for next season, either, especially considering his pay cut. With 15 players under contract, St. Louis has a projected cap hit of $56.5 million for next season. If the cap doesn’t go up, that leaves the Blues with more than $14 million to sign roughly seven players to fill the roster. That shouldn’t be too much trouble for St. Louis, but there will be some concern about how much retaining David Backes and Troy Brouwer may cost should the Blues choose to do so.