Since the great Bill Laurie Bailout, the Blues have generally operated near the NHL’s salary floor, spending just enough to stay in compliance with the collective bargaining agreement.
That changes this season. The salary cap is coming down for one season -- thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement -- and Blues spending is going up.
The Derek Roy signing guarantees that the Blues will sign at or near the cap for the 2013-14 campaign. Should restricted free agent Alex Pietrangelo attracts a hostile offer sheet, the Blues could actually go over the cap while keeping him and fellow RFAs Chris Stewart and Jake Allen.
The Blues will compete on an even economic level with all of their Western Conference rivals. In fact, the team may actually need to shed salary before the season to get under the cap.
This is a big deal. The last two seasons the Blues have been the best small-budget team in the league, winning lots of games with a tight payroll.
But they won just one playoff series in that span, so Tom Stillman’s ownership group opened up the payroll budget. That process started last season with the Jay Bouwmeester trade, then continued with the re-signing of Jordan Leopold and the addition of Roy.
Armstrong has spent his money prudently. He made competitive bids for free agents Vincent Lecavalier, Stephen Weiss and Valtteri Filppula, but he did not offer silly money.
Instead, he landed Roy on a one-year “prove yourself” deal once the market settled down. Armstrong retained some long-term payroll flexibility with this move while offering Roy both an opportunity and a challenge.
Like Patrik Berglund – who also signed a one-year deal – Roy will try to use next season to build more earning power. If he performs, he could command the sort of money ($22 million over four) that Mike Ribeiro got in Phoenix.