St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong has been in his role with the team since 2010, and has had his fair share of goalie controversies in that time. He managed Jake Allen’s contract situation very well, and that should give Blues fans confidence when looking towards the inevitable re-signing of Jordan Binnington this summer. On the other hand, there has never quite been a situation like this in the salary cap era, and it makes for a very intriguing case study.
Whatever happens in game seven tonight, the Blues are in an excellent cap situation this summer. They have only a half-a-dozen depth players to sign on top of Binnington, and a projected $36 million to work with (those are the kind of numbers that imply a big swing for a repeat finals appearance next summer).
In the salary cap era, there are three decent comparables to what Binnington is doing this season – Matt Murray (2016), Andrew Hammond (2015), and Cam Ward (2006). Both Murray and Ward won the Stanley Cup as a rookie goaltender at the age of 22, doing a lot of the heavy lifting along the way. Hammond however, only played two games of the 2015 playoffs, showing cracks that weren’t there during his spectacular regular season run. The “Hamburgler” as he was affectionately dubbed, has played 34 NHL games since, and never really was able to recapture the magic from his initial run. Murray and Ward on the other hand, have had varying degrees of success in their careers since, but both have been NHL-caliber goaltenders since their Cup runs. Binnington falls firmly into the camp with Murray and Ward (with or without a cup tonight).
Additionally, many NHL executives, scouts, and players praise Binnington for his calmness in the crease, his confidence in his play, and his technique that is extremely sound. All signs point to the St. Louis netminder panning out as a long-term NHL asset. What remains uncertain is what degree of success can we expect from Binnington moving forward. Does he follow down Ward’s path of never quite matching his rookie season form, or does he find the Murray recipe for success and put up some all-star worthy numbers when healthy? The safe bet is somewhere in between, but based on the talent on the Blues team in front of Binnington, it makes sense to shift his expectations a little higher than just the average, and closer (if not higher) than what Murray has done in his three full seasons.
The unfortunate part for comparison’s sake, is that when Murray and Ward won their rookie cups, they were both still under contract the next year. That being said, Murray did sign his extension that summer, and it mirrored Ward’s next contract almost exactly. In both cases, the second contract was a three-year deal, worth with a cap hit percentage of 5.3% for Ward ($2,666,667), and 5.14% for Murray ($3,750,000). This type of contract could make sense for Binnington as well, if it weren’t for a couple other contributing factors. Let’s get into those now.