After several seasons as a favorite target for the ire of Blues fans, Patrik Berglund has been pretty solid for St. Louis this season.
His 17 goals so far in 2016-2017 rank Berglund second on the Blues behind only Vladimir Tarasenko. Even with 22 games still left to play, this season marks Berglund's best goal scoring output since he scored 17 in the 2012-2013 season.
While his performance in this campaign has been a welcomed sight, many Blues fans figured it might be Berglund's swan song with the organization. Berglund was set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, and with the Blues facing salary cap concerns in the coming years, it felt likely that he would depart.
So call it at least a minor surprise when the Blues announced Friday that the team has signed center Patrik Berglund to a five-year, $19.25 million contract extension.
Before the Berglund extension is factored in, the Blues were projected to have $12,505,833 in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com. Berglund's cap hit for next season will be $3.85 million, meaning the Blues cap space remaining will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $8,655,833.
That should be enough room for the Blues to manage to adequately fill next year's roster, but would limit them from making many additional major signings in free agency. The Berglund deal would also seem to be another sign for what has long been assumed: Kevin Shattenkirk will not be a Blue beyond this season.
It was already unlikely that Doug Armstrong would be able to bring back the puck-moving defenseman, so the Berglund extension leaves even less funding for Armstrong to pull of a shocker to retain Shatty. Instead, he’ll try to move Shattenkirk before Tuesday’s trade deadline–a feat made more complicated by Shattenkirk’s justifiable resistance to sign long-term with the Blues’ would-be trading partner. But that’s a topic for another post.
On Berglund, he set the tone in his second year with the Blues when he recorded 52 points, and never has come close to that mark since. And while he has put the puck in the net this year, Berglund’s low assist total (7) means his total offensive contributions aren’t as significant as the goals would indicate. So is this commitment–five more years to the 28-year-old centerman–a wise investment?
It’s not a signing that warrants jubilation, but one Armstrong hopes will be practical. While Berglund isn’t flashy, he’s steady. He’s suited up and taken the ice for at least 70 games in six of his first eight NHL seasons, and has played in every game this season for St. Louis.
Consider a scenario in which the Blues let him walk; Armstrong would have to replace that output. Rather than test his luck with a major need entering the free agent market, or counting on unproven players to fill the void, he decided to retain Berglund for the long run. In doing so at a relatively modest average annual value of $3.85 million, Armstrong is hoping for more of the same from the ‘Big Swede’.
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