St. Louis Blues, 46-29-7, lost in the second round, $1,555,833 in cap space
Biggest changes: The Blues added offense by acquiring Brayden Schenn from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for pivot Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first-round pick and a 2018 conditional first-round pick. Schenn put up decent numbers the past two seasons -- with 26 goals and 59 points in 80 games in 2015-16, and 25 goals and 55 points in 79 games last season -- and is an upgrade from Lehtera. Beyond that move, the Blues made a few smaller acquisitions, believing their foundation is set and didn't need much tinkering.
Case for: The Blues have one of the more underrated cores in hockey, led by 25-year-old winger Vladimir Tarasenko, who is coming off a 39-goal season. Few players have his knack for scoring, and he should hit the 40-goal mark, and maybe even challenge for 50. Tarasenko and winger Jaden Schwartz -- 55 points in 78 games last season -- have given the Blues a formidable punch up front the past few seasons, and the two will again drive the top line. Schenn will give the Blues another weapon at forward and someone who has versatility in case of injury. Alex Pietrangelo is one of the best all-around defensemen in the NHL, and youngster Colton Parayko is a cornerstone blue-liner who blends his 6-foot-6 frame with uncommon mobility for someone that size. Goaltender Jake Allen should build on a strong second half from last season, when he went 16-8-2 with a .935 save percentage after the All-Star break.
Case against: During his time as head coach of the Minnesota Wild, Mike Yeo's teams were known for major swoons. His sample size last season was limited to 32 games after Ken Hitchcock was fired, and he has to prove he has figured out how to manage a group over an 82-game slate. Although the Blues have a nice, younger core, the health of their veterans has historically worn them down. Winger Alexander Steen, 33, was productive last season with 16 goals in 76 games, but his grinding style has made it hard for him to stay healthy. In his past five full seasons, Steen has averaged 65.6 games, and he could miss the start of this season because of a hand injury. Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, the 33-year-old former iron man, is out three weeks with an ankle injury. Paul Stastny, 31, has put up decent offensive numbers (135 points in 204 games), but he has also struggled staying in the lineup since he arrived as an unrestricted free agent before the 2014-15 season. During that stretch, he has averaged 68 games per season. Even young forward Robby Fabbri is on the shelf for the entire season after reinjuring his surgically repaired knee. Fabbri was limited to 51 games last season because of a torn ACL after showing offensive chops in 2015-16 with 18 goals in 72 games, and in the 2016 playoffs with 15 points in 20 games. The Blues were hoping Fabbri's return could give them more punch at forward, and his absence will be a huge hole to fill. Not having go-to big-money players is difficult for any team and this is something the Blues will struggle with.
Trade bait: If the Blues are out of it, odds are they'll try to trade an expiring asset. Stastny has one year at $7 million left on his contract and is a candidate, though he'd have to waive his no-trade clause.
Goalie situation rating: 8. After a tough start, Allen rebounded nicely last season and showed he had the chops in his first year as an unquestioned No. 1. He was outstanding in his team's five-game win over the Wild in the first round, posting a .956 save percentage. Carter Hutton has proved to be a solid backup, and last season had a 2.39 goal-against average and .913 save percentage in 30 games.
Scout's take: "I don't see them trending up, but they're already one of the better teams out there. I think they're strong defensively. They've always been strong defensively with [Ken Hitchcock] and now Yeo. I think he's in that mindset as well. I think they're going to do well from that standpoint. I think they're going to be competitive and hard to play against, and that's their identity, and I think that puts them in a position to be successful throughout the year."
Prediction: 6th in Central
Robby Fabbri (injured)
Jay Bouwmeester (injured)