Jackman was drafted 17th-overall by the Blues in 1999, and has played all 803 of his NHL games in St. Louis. He trails only Bernie Federko in games-played for the franchise, but that number will cease to climb as the Blues informed the long-time, rugged defenceman that they were not going to re-sign him this summer, allowing his to become a free agent for the first time in his career.
"I think I saw it coming," Jackman said to reporters on Friday. "They really like the way Lindbohm has played, and Bortuzzo has earned a spot too. So I knew I'd be on the outside looking in. I've been very fortunate to play with the Blues for as long as I have. I still feel like I've got a lot to give. I wish it was with the Blues, but it's a business. Some things don't work out, but I'm definitely very pleased with the Blues' organization for everything they've given me and for being honest with me too. They really don't have a lot of room for me. I don't fault them for this. It's probably the same move I would have made."
The 34 year-old completed a three-year, $9.5 million contract with the Blues this past season, but has seen a decline in recent years with regards to footspeed and offensive production. His work off the ice in the community, though, has been highly-praised, and he regularly gave his time to events and charities around the city of St. Louis. Clearly, this wasn't going to be an easy decision for the Blues' management to make.
"What we said is we're going to get to July 1," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong informed reporters. "We wanted him to be able to look at the market, and if it works out for him with a different team, we understand. But if it doesn't, depending on what his options are, we want to speak to him again in July. So it's a little premature for me to do the post-Jackman era conversation. What we talked about was making sure that he understands that July 1 is going to come up and be prepared to talk to teams. As we're going through the process, we can talk at that point."
Basically, the Blues want him to come back, but it sounds like they prefer he return at a significantly lower cap hit than what he was previously making. The Blues love his tenacity and leadership, but even they saw his decline as Jackman aged, making this decision one of looking to the future rather than rebuilding or tinkering with the team.
There will be teams who will come calling on July 1 for Barret Jackman. Almost every NHL team can use some more toughness and leadership from a veteran blueliner, and many will be interested in seeing if they can use Jackman as a defensive defenceman who can be paired with a younger offensive player. If Jackman is willing to play for around the same cap hit, expect a bidding war come July 1 this year.
What I do know is that one of the toughest son-of-a-guns will be playing somewhere other than St. Louis next season. It doesn't mean that he won't be back in the Central Division, but everyone in that division can probably breathe a little easier knowing that Jax isn't hunting for the Blues along the blueline any longer.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!