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Thought of the Day 06-18-09: Winchester vs Stastny June 19, 2009

Posted by bluesfan45 in Thought of the Day.
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All the talk of Keith Tkachuk Re-Signing soon should spur some additional thought in the minds of Blues fans.

Assuming Tkachuk is back for at least the 09-10 Season, the Blues have the following forwards under contract:
McDonald – Backes – Boyes
Perron – Berglund – Oshie
Kariya – Tkachuk – Steen
Stastny – McClement – ?

The question mark is that extra 3rd/4th line “grinder”. That guy who plays most of the season checking hard, seeing a little special teams play, a role player. Who could fill that role?

The likeliest answer is an internal source. Someone already in the system or a player on last year’s roster who is now a Free Agent. The Blues have BJ Crombeen, Brad Winchester, DJ King, Chris Porter, and Cam Paddock. I am sure I’m missing someone, but those are who come to mind as NHL level fillers who have done this role before.

Before getting too much in to this (and I know the title has told you where I am going), we need a few more assumptions.
1. Blues Re-Sign BJ Crombeen since he is a RFA. Lets just assume 3 years at $900k, $1.0 mil, $1.25mil, totaling $3.15mil which would be a $1.05mil cap hit.
2. The Blues liked the success they had using a larger, more physical line up.
3. Stastny, King, and Janssen are all “up” after the 09-10 season and would be potential targets to lose their roster spot to maintain team size.

You can be pretty sure that King isn’t a target. He has size, can play, fight, and is a RFA after 09-10. Leaving the Blues with Janssen vs. Stastny. Janssen has a clear role to be a fighter and isn’t needed in that many games. Janssen is also a RFA after 09-10, so if the Blues want to keep him, he is a cheaper buy than Stastny (in theory).

Now we are at Winchester vs. Stastny and our question is:

Does the size and production of Winchester equal more of a benefit than Stastny already being under a smaller contract?

Lets take a look at where both players stand in terms of being an asset to the team.

Big body to work the boards, corners, and get to the net.
Posses a pretty quick shot.
Willing to hit and take a hit.
Offensive production from the “bottom 6”.
Can play on the power play.
Has Playoff experience.

Small, quick skater.
Can play the PK effectively.
Has speed to fore-check.
Could play Center or Wing.
Responsible defensively.

Factors Against Each Player:

Winchester – Tkachuk and Crombeen Re-Signed. AHL depth under contract (Porter, Paddock, etc). UFA and could get bigger contract offers from other teams. Kariya added to power play likely pushes Winchester in to less power play time, therefore reducing his production. Giving a “grinder’ a raise and paying him more than someone else who could potentially do the same job for less.

Stastny – Blues have multiple effective penalty killing forwards in McClement, Steen, Oshie, Backes, and Crombeen. Patrik Berglund could also be thrown in to the mix next year. Must pass through waivers go to Peoria. Small size with limited offensive upside.

The wild card is the contract. Stastny is signed, done deal. Winchester would require the Blues to add him, at a higher rate than Stastny, and then move Stastny or Janssen off the roster.  At this point, this is where you “gamble” (I use that term loosely because losing Yan wouldn’t destroy the organization) and bring back Winchester at more money and find a way to move down or out Stastny.

There seems to be little doubt that Murray found the right buttons to push Winchester to the next level, to become a better player. Winchester has the size the Blues need to maintain till the team is better equiped to play the “Red Wing style” of quick transition and possession. You cannot win if you don’t score and scoring depth is a need in the new NHL. Winchester proving 12-15 or so goals from the bottom 6 is a huge bonus to the team. Certainly those extra goals and physical presence are worth an extra $500,000.

Now this could all be a moot point, Winchester could pass on the Blues offer and go elsewhere. However I think the Blues want his size back and Winchester wants to come back. I think this might be one of the few instances where you reward the “grinder” and give him the raise. Yes, his roster spot can be filled for cheaper, but what he brings back is worth the investment.