The St. Louis Blues missed the playoffs for only the second time since the 2010-11 season. After a decade of being a contender in the Western Conference, the Blues may need to go through a retool to get back. They parted ways with some integral members of the 2018-19 Stanley Cup-winning team.

Captain Ryan O'Reilly went to his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. Ivan Barbashev went to Las Vegas and won his second Cup, and Vladimir Tarasenko went to the New York Rangers. The final domino to fall could be Jordan Binnington, as Joel Hofer looks prepared to take the reins in net. A good-looking crop of prospects gives the fans hope that the Blues can perform a quick turnaround and be a contender. New captain, Brayden Schenn, takes over for O'Reilly and leads the Blues into the next era of St. Louis hockey.

Fans may expect another down year, but things are looking up for the franchise. Let's preview the 2023-24 season for the St.Louis Blues.

Binnington's Blues future

Jordan Binnington took the hockey world by storm during the 2018-19 season, leading the Blues to a surprising Stanley Cup. Ever since that dream season, his goals-against average has been increasing while his save percentage has gone down.

SeasonGAASave %

Looking back, it may have been premature to name a career minor leaguer the future of NHL goaltending. However, in 2018-19, he was better than everyone else, giving St.Louis hope for the future. The Blues now have him signed for $6 million per year until the 2026-27 season, and they have plenty of goalies knocking on the door to replace him. If Binnington's form continues to decrease, a decision has to be made.

23-year-old Joel Hofer will be Binnington's backup to start the season, but he will soon be ready to be the starter. The Blues have four more goalies in training camp, three under 23-years old. Goalies are knocking on the door to be with the NHL team, and Binnington will be pressured to perform this season.

One positive about Binnington is that pressure is usually how he thrives. The 2019 playoffs and his fending off of Ville Husso for the starting position two seasons ago show Binnington thriving under the spotlight. The difference is that Hofer won't be a trade candidate like Husso was, so he will be a tough threat to evade.

The Blues add Kevin Hayes

Kevin Hayes' contract with the Philadelphia Flyers was always too rich for anyone's liking. Last season, Hayes had 18 goals and 36 assists for a struggling Flyers team. He also went to his first All-Star game, which was more of a product of the Flyers having no one else to send than his stats reflecting those of an All-Star. The Blues traded with the Flyers in the offseason, acquiring Hayes for a 6th-round draft pick. The Flyers also retained 50% of Hayes' contract in the deal.

Hayes was taking up $7.1 million on the team's cap, but the retention now has Hayes costing the Blues $3.5 million. This annual salary for a third-line center who can contribute 50+ points is much more cost-affordable than the original salary cap hit. The Blues may have a much younger team than before. The additions of a veteran like Hayes and the remaining veterans Brandon Saad, Brayden Schenn, and Pavel Buchnevich form a good core that can be competitive.

Players taking the next step

Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas are set to begin matching eight-year, $65 million contracts this season. The deals solidify two-thirds of the Blues' first line until at least 2031, per The Hockey News. This was a big step for the Blues, as they put their confidence in two players who have yet to prove they can carry a team offensively. Kyrou had 37 goals and 36 assists in 79 games last season, while Thomas had 65 points in 73 games.

The Blues expect them to raise those totals this season, but I'm not sure they have much of an increase in them. St. Louis has to depend on depth through the lineup to contribute offensively and not rely on their top line to do all the work. As mentioned earlier, getting Kevin Hayes as the third-line center is a good step in the right direction for this strategy.

Another player who the team expects to improve is Jake Neighbours. The 21-year-old had four goals and ten assists in 43 games last season, but another season under his belt should see those numbers increase. The bottom half of their lineup will be filled with other young players, Nikita Alexandrov and Alexy Toropchenko. If all of their young players can reach another level, the Blues rebuild will be here sooner than people expect.

Blues defensive situation

The Blues defense was in a bit of a mess last season. The team has an aging core of under-sized defensemen who tend to get pushed around. Their one defenseman who has some size and was a defensive stalwart is Colton Parayko, and he has had a couple of down years by his standards. The team doesn't have much help coming in that department, as their better prospects, Scott Perunovich and Michael Buchinger, are also smaller, puck-moving defensemen.

The team sank big contracts into Torey Krug and Justin Faulk, who are alike in more ways than one. They are smaller-bodied, too offensive-focused, and are injury-prone. The Blues have the potential to have a quick turnaround, but remedying the defense situation has to be at the top of their to-do list.

Projected final roster

Forwards: Pavel Buchnevich, Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, Brandon Saad, Brayden Schenn, Kasperi Kapanen, Jakub Vrana, Kevin Hayes, Samuel Blais, Jake Neighbours, Nikita Alexandrov, Alexy Toropchenko, Oskar Sundqvist

Defensemen: Nick Leddy, Colton Parayko, Torey Krug, Justin Faulk, Marco Scandella, Calle Rosen, Robert Bortuzzo

Goaltenders: Jordan Binnington, Joel Hofer