The St. Louis Blues will have a similar defense corps to the one that got them to the playoffs last year, but need to get some players signed for the future this season. Of the eight defensemen reporting to training camp, only two are signed beyond the 2013 season.
The defense is led by veteran Barrett Jackman, heading into his tenth season with the team that drafted him in the first round of the 1999 draft. He’s never going to put up a ton of points, but rarely makes mistakes in his own end. This will be just the third full NHL season for Alex Pietrangelo, who already plays like a veteran. Last season saw him score 12 goals and record 51 points, good enough for third on the team. Right behind him in scoring was young star Kevin Shattenkirk, who continues to impress just two seasons after the Blues brought him over from the Colorado Avalanche. Roman Polak rounds out the top four blueliners, and much like Jackman is not much of an offensive threat. He is known for his physical play and is a great stay-at-home defender. If you’re looking for fantasy value, Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk should be near the top of your list. What Polak and Jackman bring to this team is harder to measure on paper.
Two youngsters will try to have an impact with the team this year as well. Ian Cole spent half the season with the Blues in 2011-12, while spending the rest of his time in the AHL. He was off to a great start with the Peoria Rivermen, and should have a pretty good chance at making the team out of camp. Former Edmonton Oilers prospect Taylor Chorney was also off to a good start with the Rivermen, and will hope to add to his 61 games of NHL experience this season. He has proven he can score at the AHL level but needs to do so when called up as well.
Jeff Woywitka returns to the team after three seasons and will try to help fill part of the void left by Carlo Colaiacovo’s departure. Kris Russell looked good for St. Louis after coming over in a trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the team may want to keep him around moving forward.
Only Jackman and Pietrangelo are currently signed past this season, so the team will need to stay busy pushing contract extensions through in 2013. They chose not to make a splash in free agency and instead re-signed many of their top forwards to big deals, now they can show their defensemen the same treatment. With little change from a defensive lineup that helped them finish second in the Western Conference, look for the Blues to continue to be tough to play against in 2013.