Public Q&A With The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford

Jeremy Rutherford, the Blues’ lead writer with the Athletic, is one of the top inside reporters for everything St. Louis Blues and San Antonio Rampage. (Photo courtesy: The Athletic)

Jeremy Rutherford, the Athletic’s insider for the Blues, recently held a Q&A discussion on anything and everything St. Louis Blues with Athletic subscribers. Once a longtime beat writer with the STL Post-Dispatch, Rutherford is entering his 14th season covering the Blues on the Athletic, and is considered by many as one of the top sources for Blues insider information.

We managed to get a few burning questions on fans’ minds to Rutherford and took down his responses. To keep up to date with Rutherford’s articles and in-depth analyses on the Blues, subscribe to the Athletic at https://theathletic.com/ or follow Jeremy Rutherford on Twitter, @jprutherford.

Q: With Roman Josi resigning with Nashville, how does this set a precedent for Alex Pietrangelo’s contract discussions? Should it? Is there any similarity to this debate to the Brent Seabrook contract back in 2015?

JR: “For those who didn’t see it, Josi re-signed with Nashville [last Tuesday], agreeing to an eight-year, max contract worth just over $9 million a year. That’s probably what most people expected for him. How does it affect Pietrangelo’s situation? I think from Blues management’s perspective, they didn’t mind the Josi contract. The thought around the league was that he’d get paid a little more than Pietrangelo, and in their mind, this probably puts Pietrangelo in the $8.25 million-$8.5 million range. I don’t think that’s going to get it done with Pietrangelo. The Blues will probably have to come up a bit, but I think there’s a starting point if Pietrangelo is willing to take a little less on the AAV for the max term.

“Pietrangelo and Seabrook are two different players, so I don’t want to get that confused, but it’s not a bad point to make. Seabrook was 30 years old (like Pietrangelo) when he signed an eight-year, $55 million deal and now four years into it, he’s been a healthy scratch. There’s four more years left on the deal with a $6.9 million AAV. Seabrook was obviously paid for what he had done in the past, which is what some people might say about Pietrangelo if he gets an eight-year deal, too.

“I think, though, that Seabrook’s game told you he was going to wear down quicker than Pietrangelo. Pietrangelo does have a lot of miles on him, and he’s not going to be near the player he is today in six or seven years. But to me, Pietrangelo is playing some of the best hockey of his career now, and if you can keep the AAV reasonable, I don’t see a reason not to give him eight years and deal with that down the road. The Blues have a championship window right now and he’s a big part of it.”

Q: Does coach Berube feel the Blues are getting close to solid, consistent lines? Obviously, the injuries have played early setbacks but the lines are getting switched a lot, including the off-hand D pairing experiments. As Faulk continues to get settled into the Blues’ style of play, are we any closer to finding the right combinations for certain lines?

JR: “I think they were getting closer to liking their forward lines, but then the Tarasenko injury happened, so now they’re forced to change things up a bit. But it’s pretty clear that they like Blais, so he’s going to get a shot. They don’t mind giving Sanford more opportunity, and they just don’t like what Fabbri’s bringing. I think if everybody who’s healthy now stays healthy, this is the lineup we’ll see, with Fabbri and whoever the call-up is as the extras.

“As far as the D pairs, Berube was asked about that today, and he said that he does eventually want to get to some set pairs. But he said that’s difficult because they have seven defensemen. You saw them go back to Gunnarsson-Pietrangelo, Bouwmeester-Parayko, Dunn-Faulk [against Columbus] and I think eventually that’s what it’s probably going to be. That’s tough for Faulk, but it didn’t work with him and Pietrangelo and Parayko needs to play with Bouwmeester.”

Q: What is your evaluation of the powerplay under Marc Savard so far? Do you like the direction it’s headed and what needs improvement?

JR: “Yes, I do, and I’ll be writing about that soon. I spoke with Ilya Kovalchuk when LA was in town and Patrice Bergereon when I went to Boston. Both of those guys played with Savard and they know how he thinks on the power play. I’ll pass along their thoughts in the story, hopefully with some video too, but in a nutshell, Savard is getting the Blues to move the puck better on the PP and, as you would think, it’s leading to better looks and more confidence.”

Q: Is Jordan Kyrou really as good as people hype him up to be, and is it enough to make him the first player called up from SA this season?

JR: “When he puts it all together, he is THAT good. Tremendous skater with a lot of skill, but needs to be better defensively and can’t turn the puck over as much as he did during his mini-stints with the Blues. That’s not unexpected from a young player, but when Kyrou gets his next chance, he’s got to take a small step at least. Everything is there talent-wise, he just needs to pull it all together at the NHL level.”

Q: Does coach Berube or GM Doug Armstrong believe in the idea of pursuing rental contracts? It’s not quite in Army’s philosophy as GM, but is that something they need to consider with Tarasenko out longterm?

JR: “Armstrong will trade for a rental if it makes sense. [However], it’s not rental season yet, so there’s nothing he can really do right now. I guess you could wow New Jersey with a package right now [for Taylor Hall], and perhaps they’d make the deal. But is that in the Blues’ interest to give up the moon for Taylor Hall now, when somebody we’re not thinking of might step in and handle the job? Army wants to let it play out a little bit, and then we’ll get closer to rental season.”

Rutherford’s comments definitely shed some light on how the Blues are approaching the powerplay and the Tarasenko injury, and it seems the Stanley Cup Champion Blues are up to the task to repeat as Cup contenders, despite the Tarasenko injury early in the season. Follow Rutherford on Twitter to keep up to date on his articles and insights.

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