Since the NHL lockout in 2004-05, the surprise in the size of the
contracts signed in the opening week of free agency has worn off.
But with another lockout potentially looming, Blues general
manager Doug Armstrong said that teams were dealt another "eye-
opening" financial obstacle when they went searching for free agents
The headline players in the class were forward Zach Parise and
defenseman Ryan Suter. The Blues were not involved with either of
the players, who eventually signed monstrous, matching 13-year, $98
million contracts with the Minnesota Wild.
But included in each of those deals, a byproduct of players'
fears about the collective bargaining agreement expiring Sept. 15
and lockout ensuing, were $10 million signing bonuses.
The Blues did express interest in free-agent defensemen Matt
Carle and Jason Garrison, and in fact were heavily involved in
negotiations with Carle. But he signed a six-year, $33 million
contract with Tampa Bay, and Garrison inked a six-year, $27.6
million deal with Vancouver.
The annual average for Carle ($5.5 million) would have given him
the highest cap hit on the Blues' roster next season, while Garrison
($4.6 million) would have been slightly under the current highest
average on club (Andy McDonald, $4.7 million).
In addition to those hefty contracts, Carle and Garrison each
received $3 million signing bonuses. According to Capgeek.com, those
bonuses are ranked ninth-highest in the NHL, tied with Tampa Bay's
Steven Stamkos, who scored 60 goals last season, and twice as many
as Chicago's Duncan Keith, who has won a Norris Trophy as the
league's top defenseman.
"I guess I'm never really surprised at what happens in the NHL on
certain dates," Armstrong said. "Any time there's an artificial
deadline, there seems to be a lot of activity. We certainly saw some
very lucrative contracts handed out, some lucrative contracts with
signing bonuses handed out, which seems to be a phenomenon that you
only have as you're entering into the expiration of a collective
bargaining agreement. I don't know if surprised would be the right
term as it is eye-opening."
So now, after coming up empty in free agency, the Blues are
expected to carry out their search for a top-four defenseman
exploring the trade market. Calgary's Jay Bouwmeester and Phoenix's
Keith Yandle might be available, according to reports, and the Blues
are thought to have some interest. …