Blues have higher payroll, but still could be contemplating moves

News-DemocratJuly 9, 2013 

Trying to get a read on the mindset of St. Louis Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong is never easy.

And even though he was viewing the team's top prospects during rookie camp Tuesday, Armstrong's media queries dealt primarily with NHL personnel issues.

After adding veteran centers Derek Roy ($4 million) and Maxim Lapierre ($2.2 million over two years) last weekend, the Blues' salary cap payroll figure is at $56.38 million.

They have moved from near the bottom of the NHL payroll ranks to No. 21 and climbing since the Blues still have to sign restricted free agents Alex Pietrangelo, Chris Stewart and goalie Jake Allen.

Some have speculated that with just $9.1 million remaining to reach the 2013-14 salary cap and two major contracts still to complete, the Blues might have to make a trade to clear some cap space.

"You're never done, but we're very comfortable with the group that we have now," Armstrong said. "We're excited this year with the salary cap coming down and our internal payroll going up, we're going to be competitive with all teams in the NHL as far as payroll.

"That equal footing is important and we have to make hay when the sun is shining."

Making a longer playoff journey might put a lot of hay in the Blues' barn.

Are the Blues any closer to reaching agreements with Pietrangelo or Stewart?

"It could happen today, it could happen in September or October," Armstrong said. "I'm not really sure when, but I'm very confident we'll get those guys in here at the right time."

Armstrong never divulges his next move, but he didn't exactly rule out a potential trade.

"Wayne Gretzky got traded, so I would say everybody's available," Armstrong said. "Some guys are not likely to be traded, but you'd be foolish to say if the MVP of the league was made available and they called you and said 'We need this piece, do you want it?'''

With goalies Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott and Allen on the roster, do the Blues have an excess of depth or a goaltending controversy? Does Armstrong think the Blues will trade one away?

"No, I don't at all," he said. "Jake came up and played very well for us last year, but he still has some growth he could do. I don't think playing in the AHL would stunt his development.

"Jaro and Brian won the Jennings (Trophy) just two short years ago. If we go into the season with these three goalies, that's excellent depth."

Halak was hard at work Tuesday at the training facility and has been all summer.

Armstrong said he will leave decisions on who plays wing and who plays center up to coach Ken Hitchcock, but the new additions have certainly loaded up the possible options.

Center candidates include David Backes, Patrik Berglund, Roy and Lapierre. Backes, Alex Steen, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Sobotka and Chris Porter are all versatile enough to play wing or center.

"We don't have that elite talented player, but I would say around the league probably only eight or nine teams have that player," Armstrong said. "Usually you have to pick first overall, you get a (Steven) Stamkos, you get a (Sidney) Crosby, you get an (Alex) Ovechkin, you get a (Patrick) Kane..but those players are hard to find.

"When I look at the depth of our roster...I find it hard to believe there's many teams deeper than us. But we have to put that on the ice and we have to come up on the top end of that."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or on Twitter @NormSanders

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