One of the best teams in the NHL should be jumping for joy that Zach Parise and Ryan Suter have signed with the Minnesota Wild.
This team was not a contender to sign either of the two at any point, but it is one of the top contenders to win the Stanley Cup this upcoming season and its chances have just increased.
This team is the St. Louis Blues.
Division rivals Detroit and Chicago missed out on the prized free agents and Nashville has been thrown into a panic after losing one of its biggest stars.
The Blues won the Central Division for the first time since 2000 last season, and while St. Louis has not made any significant signings this offseason, it has been a successful one so far.
The Central is one of the strongest divisions in hockey, but now, since Nashville and Detroit have been depleted by free-agent losses and retirements and Chicago still has not found any solutions for its weak defense or goaltending, St. Louis' chances of winning the Central just became a little bit better.
The Blues don't have to worry about Zach Parise in the Central Division and Ryan Suter (as well as possibly Shea Weber within the next year) has left a rival team.
As long as the Blues don't suffer injuries like they had in years before 2012, they should be considered the favorites to win the Central Division.
The Blues have a terrific forward corps including David Backes, TJ Oshie, Andy McDonald, David Perron, Alex Steen and Chris Stewart, but what really makes the Blues an elite team is their defense. Alex Pietrangelo will soon be a top-five NHL defenseman, and Kevin Shattenkirk and Barret Jackman are solid blueliners.
To back up the defense, the Blues have an outstanding goalie tandem in Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. These two were so good last year that they combined for the lowest goals-against average in hockey, and neither was a clear starter for the team. Talk about a good problem to have.
Nashville finished second in the division last year, but has had a horrible offseason so far, unable to sign its star defenseman and likely not being able to re-sign solid forward Andrei Kostitsyn.
The Predators will likely still be a decent team, but will also take a few steps back this season.
The Detroit Red Wings have been among hockey's elite for over 20 years, but took a hit this offseason by losing Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart and Jiri Hudler while failing to sign Parise and/or Suter.
If you think Ken Holland is done spending, though, think again. The Red Wings have a ton of cap space and, while they swung and missed on Parise and Suter, they should still be able to put together a solid team next year.
Chicago came into the offseason as possibly the best offensive team in the NHL, but it needed defense and goaltending. The Blackhawks made a run at Zach Parise, but failed, and have not bolstered their defense or goaltending in any way.
Obviously, they still have time to spend money on free agents or trade for a goalie, but an extremely quiet offseason won't help, and most of the top defensemen are all off the market now.
Makes you wonder whether or not they will try to trade Patrick Kane.
And Columbus...well, they're Columbus. The Blues don't have to worry about them. There is the possibility, however, that Rick Nash will be traded to someone in the Eastern Conference or someone in another division, which would cause the Blues to play less games against the superstar.
The Blues should be able to win the Central again this year as long as injuries don't interfere in a major way; however, these signings could still hurt the Blues some time in the future.
With a new realignment coming in 2013-14 (hopefully), the Blues may be put into the same division as the Minnesota Wild.
St. Louis would have to compete with the newly-upgraded team more often each season; however, until Minnesota's plethora of prospects all develop and reach their potential, the Blues will remain a better team than Minnesota by a long shot.
This season should be another fun one for St. Louis hockey fans.
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