(Paul Sancya / AP) – Tavares (USA Today Sports Images) – Kovalchuk (Photo By: Laurie Skrivan, St. Louis Post Dispatch) – Reaves
It’s the offseason and with that it’s time for all the teams that didn’t win the Stanley Cup, essentially everyone that’s not the Washington Capitals, to start thinking about rebuilding their roster to go for it next year. That process involves four major parts: the Draft, Re-signing internal free agents, Signing external free agents, and Trades. Now I’m not really good with predicting draft prospects and even if you are, the draft is always a bit of a guessing game, look no further than first round picks Jordan Schmaltz or Nail Yakupov to prove that. On top of that, due to the trades made at last year’s draft, primarily the one to get Brayden Schenn, the Blues only have one pick in the first round this year and it’s Winnipeg’s at 29th, so there will be no immediate help there. Which means that if the Blues want to compete next year, and all the press releases from Armstrong and the Ownership say they do, they’ll have to do most of it through those other three parts, primarily the free agents and the trades.
This particular article is going to focus primarily on the Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA’s) that are going to be available to every team this year. Before you can look into the UFA market however, a few pieces of accounting must be done, namely: what is the Salary Cap Ceiling for this year, how much money do you have under that ceiling and what is the maximum contract allowed? Now the first part of that is a bit of a question mark right now. So far, all the NHL has said is that the 2018-19 cap will be between $78mil and $82mil. For the sake of my bookkeeping, I’m going to go ahead and split the difference and say $80mil. That is the number I’m going to use as my assumed cap for any monetary calculations in this article. The maximum contract allowed is capped under the CBA as 20% of the cap ceiling. At $80mil that is a $16mil AAV. Now the hardest question to answer of those three above is, how much do the Blues have to spend? That depends on who they sign or don’t sign internally. Frankly put, the only internal free agent that I think is guaranteed a contract right now is Joel Edmundson, everybody else has a compelling case to stay or be cut. That being said, I used the best of my knowledge and went ahead and guessed at who the Blues should sign and for how much. If you’d like to read my justification for that it’s right here. Going with my suggestions/educated guesses, that leaves us with the majority of our current roster intact and about $9mil-$9.5mil in cap space to play with. The Blues could also add to that cap space by trading a few select players, namely Berglund ($3.85mil), Sobotka ($3.5mil), Gunnarsson ($2.9mil), and if they agree, Bouwmeester ($5.4mil) and Steen ($5.75mil). A note on the last two, trading Bouwmeester or Steen would require them to wave a No Trade Clause, which I believe is unlikely to happen with Bouwmeester, but possible with Steen.
Now that we have the numbers established, let’s take a look at the players that are available on the market this year. Now the Blues don’t need any defense. In fact, once they re-sign Edmundson, I would dare to say that their top 4 defensemen are not only set, but the oldest one, Alex Pietrangelo, is only 28 years old. That’s a group that can and will likely remain unchanged for at least the next 2 years and probably more if Pietrangelo re-signs. The Blues could use some goaltending help but, well, there’s just simply nobody on the market worth even a first glance, much less a second. Here’s a short list of available free agent Goaltenders: Kari Lehtonen, Jaroslav Halak, Cam Ward, Jonathan Bernier and Eddie Lack, and it just goes downhill from there. That’s the bad news, but there is good news. The Blues’ single biggest need right now is Forwards, specifically centers, and there is plenty of that on the Free Agent Market and some major names as well. So, I’m going to go through some of these guys, give you a guess at how much I expect them to sign for, how long I expect them to sign for, and then say whether or not the Blues should try and sign them.
John Tavares, Center, New York Islanders
Estimated Salary Range: $10 – $14 mil
Estimated Contract Length: 6 – 7 Years
Should The Blues Sign Him? Yes, but…
Alright here we go, John Tavares, #91, the proverbial 800 lb. gorilla in the room of the 2018 Free Agency Period, the man who has inspired a million hashtags. Tavares is by far and away the unquestioned gem of this free agency period. He is 28 years old, coming off of an 84 point season, has managed to average about 40 goals a season and paired it with about 30 assists and almost exactly 20mins/game. He’s got 9 years of NHL experience and he’s only missed more than 5 games in a season once, 2013-14, when he was injured at the Olympics in Russia. Tavares is a real deal elite center and more than that, he is coming off of a dumpster fire of an Islanders organization. In that nine years he has only managed to make the playoffs 3 times and it hasn’t been in the last 2 years. Tavares is in the prime of his career, is a great player, is hungry to win and is looking for an organization that isn’t falling apart. From the Blues perspective, he is everything they could possibly want! A center with an over 50% faceoff percentage, that has done most of that on a top line, and a real playmaker that will make the players around him better, if given players he’s capable of making better, i.e. Tarasenko and Schwartz. There is a lot to love about John Tavares, but there is also a few very important questions.
The first question is that salary. I have seen guestimates everywhere from $9 mil to $16 mil for how much Tavares will cost and frankly, that is a big range for him. Basically it comes down to this, players of Tavares’ caliber simply don’t hit free agency very often, and thus there isn’t really a great yardstick to measure their value in the open market. I don’t think it will be $16 mil because simply put, no NHL player has every signed a max deal. The NHL calculates that as 20% of the cap, Crosby’s current contract was only 14.5%, Malkin signed for 14.77%, Patrick Kane and John Toews both signed for 15.22%, Ovechkin was only 16.82%, and even more recent monster contracts like Connor McDavid only amounted to 16.67%. I expect Tavares to sign for as much or close to as much as most of those guys percentage wise, but he will not make more than 17% of cap ceiling, which, with an $80 million cap, is $13.6 mil AAV. How much he actually costs is partially dependent on what he wants. If he is more interested in a stable organization that gives him a chance to win multiple cups, then he might be willing to take something closer to $10 mil to give the team a better chance of winning. If he is interested in making more money, then it’ll be closer to $14 mil and he’ll go to whoever wins the bidding war. Either way, the Blues are going to have to move assets in order to afford him. If the Blues are serious about pursuing Tavares, then they will move some of those guys I listed above at the Draft for either picks or non-NHL ready prospects, simply to get them off the books. The length of Tavares’ contract also raises questions. We’ve seen how multiple big money contracts like that can weigh a team down over the years and ultimately hurt them; see the Chicago Blackhawks over the last two years for an example of that. However, that doesn’t necessarily worry me as much with the Blues. The Blues have multiple upper level prospects, Kyrou, Thompson, Thomas and Kostin, to name a few that can give you good shifts for relatively low money. They also have a couple of old guys, Bouwmeester and Steen, that will be leaving before those younger guys need to get paid. Add in a conservative growth of the Salary Cap over the next 3-5 years and as long as Tavares’ contract doesn’t get up near that $14 mil mark, they should be able to afford to keep him for 6-7 years and be competitive throughout, possibly with a couple of cup runs mixed in there.
The most concerning question I have with John Tavares isn’t about money or longevity, or even his talent, my big question is chemistry. If John Tavares comes to St. Louis, he is not going to accept anything less than being the first line center every single night. That means centering Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. That also means that Brayden Schenn would be shifted to the 2nd line, and that means breaking up the line that gave us most of our offense last year and was the main bright spot in an otherwise dark and gloomy forward group. Then there’s Tarasenko, who plays better when he’s paired with guys he likes and gets along with, especially at center, and for whatever reason, he, Schwartz and Schenn seem to have an incredible chemistry together. My concern is that if Tarasenko doesn’t share that chemistry with Tavares, what happens is that Tarasenko’s production falls, that consequentially causes Tavares’ production to fall and then you have to start shifting personnel around, leaving Tavares to center Steen and a rookie while essentially recreating the top line from last year. That won’t sit well with Tavares or the fans.
To boil this all down, what Tavares amounts to is this; he is an elite player with elite level skills that has never really been on a truly competitive team. In order to sign him we need to convince him that the Blues are, or at least will be within a couple of years, a truly competitive team. That requires him to have a good rapport with Tarasenko, or he’s going to find himself playing with rookies, good rookies, but rookies none the less, for the next two or three years until we can justify Kyrou or Kostin as a first line winger. Should that stop the Blues from signing him? No. If the deal can be done it should, but if he doesn’t get along well with Tarasenko and guys like Kyrou or Thomas, he won’t make an immediate impact, which could also lead to a very disgruntled Blues team and possibly another disappointing season. Tavares can definitely make a huge impact, but it also takes more than one guy to win a Stanley Cup, and just signing him doesn’t necessarily mean all problems are solved. He has the potential to cause just as many problems as he solves. Still, if Armstrong can get the deal done, especially for a sub $12 mil/year, he’d be a fool to let Tavares go elsewhere.
There, that’s the big one out of the way, I promise the rest of these won’t be as long.
Joe Thornton, Center, San Jose
Expected Salary Range: $6 – $8 mil
Expected Contract Length: 1-2 Years
Should the Blues Sign Him? No
I’m going to preface this by saying I like Big Joe’s style. He’s big, he’s physical, he doesn’t mind going to the dirty areas and getting things done. He has a play style that’s very similar to Backes attached to a more talented player. However, he’s way too old for me and I think the Blues. This is a team that is already weighed down with burdensome contracts on old players and Joe would be yet another aging veteran on the back end of his career. I like him, I think he would bring something to the team they don’t have, but I fear his numbers are about to fall off a cliff due to his age. He also only managed to play 47 games last year and while his production was still good for that little time playing, it’s only a matter of time with him. I for one don’t want to be left holding the bag if he crashes. There is also a good chance, seeing as he is essentially at the end of his career, that Thornton chooses to go somewhere that gives him a good chance to win now, and even with him, the Blues would still be a little bit shy of that level. He’s a good player, a good guy, and I hate to see him retire soon, but he would be a mistake for the Blues right now.
Paul Stastny, Center, Winnipeg
Estimated Salary Range: $6 – $8 mil
Estimated Contract Length: 5 – 6 years
Should the Blues sign him? Maybe
First, I know some people are going to balk at that salary range. Stastny was making $7 mil here and a large number of fans thought that was too much. I agree he was slightly overpaid but he’s not going to sign for much less. Basically, the Salary Cap went up and when the salary cap goes up, Free Agent salaries go up with it. He is also a UFA and UFA’s regularly get overpaid, therefore, I think he will command the above price tag and will try and get 5 – 6 years which will more or less be the rest of his career, as he is 32 years old. As for whether or not the Blues should bring him back, I think they could definitely do worse, but they need more than just Stastny. If they just sign Stastny and do nothing else, then this is a mistake and it’s essentially just assembling the same thing they had last year and hoping for a different result. Stastny is a solid centerman, I would say he is more of a 2nd line guy, but if the Blues have decided to just role with the Schwartz/Schenn/Tarasenko line as the top line, then Stastny would be a great addition. Remember, he is one of the better Faceoff takers in the NHL, with a career 53.9% on faceoffs and a 56.3% with the Blues. He is capable of putting up top 6 minutes still and he has the ability to put up 30-35 assists a year. If you can pair that with a couple of decent line mates, acquired either through Free Agency or Trade, then he could be a great centerpiece to a revamped 2nd line. Again, he’s not going to fix the Blues problems by himself, but add in another decent scorer and maybe a young gun like Kyrou, and this could be a much different situation. Adding him would help the Blues, but don’t expect him to be much cheaper than he was the last time the Blues signed him. He could provide a solid veteran hand on the 2nd line and I’m sure due to his connections with St. Louis, he would love to be back again, especially if he got some better talent to line up alongside him.
Tyler Bozak, Center, Toronto
Estimated Salary Range: $5 – $7 mil
Estimated Contract Length: 4 – 6 years
Should the Blues Sign Him? Maybe
Bozak is essentially a slightly less talented and slightly cheaper version of Stastny. He is a decent 2nd line center, good for about a 53% faceoff number at about 40 points a season. Much like Stastny, if he’s paired up with a couple of good wingers, he could be a valuable asset to the Blues and considering he’s spent his entire career with Toronto, being on a more competitive team might be a good change for him. If the Blues either don’t get Tavares or decide to go with a lineup more aimed at depth than top end scoring, Bozak could be a good option to center a rebuilt center line behind the Schwartz/Schenn/Tarasenko line. He’s probably going to be more interested in a 6 year deal, which would get him to the end of his career or close to it, but I think he might be able to be talked down due to the fact that there are simply bigger names and better players ahead of him.
Estimated Salary Range: $4 – $6 mil / $3 – $5 mil
Estimated Contract Length: 2 – 3 years / 3 – 4 years
Should the Blues Sign them? Maybe
I put these two together because they are very similar. Honestly speaking, John Tavares is a 1st line center and every other center in this class is a 2nd line or worse. The best 2nd line center available here is Stastny, and everyone else is a bit of a consolation prize for him. Bozak is a less talented Stastny and these two are an older version of him. They are 35 and 34 respectively, thus the different length ranges, also both of them are on the back end of their career looking for a final contract. I think either of these guys could provide a bridge and could be a solid fall back option. Essentially, if all of the Free Agent pursuits fail and a major trade doesn’t come through, the Blues will be left to play a long game which essentially requires bringing the younger guys, Robert Thomas and Tage Thompson up. Either of these guys would provide a fine option to fill in the 2nd line center role until the young guys are capable of filling that role. Both of these guys have had 60 point years in the past and there was a time when they were both reliable 40 point players, but those days are past for both of them. Now they are good for around 30 points with about 10 goals. Not lights out numbers, but if you need someone reliable to stand in at center for 75-80 games and win half of their faceoffs, Plekanec has a career 50.0% face off percentage and Filppula has a 51.2%. My preference between the two would be Filppula, but really they are essentially the same player. If you can’t land Tavares or Stastny, either would be ok, but neither is really a preferred option.
Derek Ryan, Center, Carolina
Estimated Salary Range: $2.5 – $4 mil
Estimated Contract Length: 2 – 6 years
Should the Blues sign him? No, but…
Derek Ryan is a reach and at best, he’s a consolation prize. He is a less experienced version of Brodziak, he didn’t really make the NHL until he was 29, but last year he had a great year for Carolina. He played 80 games, put up 38 points and had a 56.5% faceoff percentage. However, he only played 15:36 min a game and honestly, he’s not really a 2nd line centerman, which is what the Blues need. He could be a useful add if we didn’t have as many young guys in the system, but there are two situations I could see the Blues signing him. First, if they fail to sign any of the better options and they just need to bring another guy in, think of the Cardinals signing Mike Leake a few years back after losing out on David Price. There is also the possibility that after exploring both the Trade and FA markets, Armstrong decides that rather than going after a name this year, he’d rather build from within with the young guys and that could lead to a signing of Derek Ryan simply to bridge the gap until Robert Thomas, Tage Thompson or possibly Ivan Barbashev are ready to step up to the 2nd line. If the Blues sign him it’s either because they have run out of other options and are desperate, or they’ve given up at turning things around for this year. Neither would be a good sign.
Mikhail Grabovski, Center/Right Wing, Vegas
Joe Colborne, Forward, Colorado
Estimated Salary Range: $4 – $6 mil / $2 – $4 mil
Estimated Contract Length: 2 years / 2 years or 4 – 6 years
Should the Blues sign them? Gambles, health.
I put these two together because they are facing similar situations. Both of them missed the entire 2017-18 season due to injury. Grabovski has actually missed the last 2 seasons with a concussion that he suffered in 2015-16. He is dealing with post-concussion syndrome and never managed to be activated after Vegas took him as part of a trade connected to the expansion draft. He has the ability to be a decent NHL center, but he is going to be hard pressed to find a contract this year, considering nobody is really sure what he will be or how he could come back. At 34 years old I think it might be time for him to consider retirement, and if the Blues did take him, they would be simply rolling the dice that he could bounce back from his concussion and get back. I don’t like that signing, but if he gets a good report from the doctors and you can get him for cheap, then it could be a nice under the radar move. He won’t re-sign with Vegas, as I would think they will try and get that contract off the books to give them more space for more moves. As for Colborne, he is coming off a pretty severe back injury. He failed to play in the NHL in 2017-18 but he did log 13 games in the AHL for San Antonio. That would suggest that the Blues have seen what he is capable off, due to their relationship with San Antonio, and might have a line on him. He has had decent seasons in the NHL in the past, namely with Calgary, but I think with him the same info, as Derek Ryan above comes into play. He’s not really the answer but if you’re desperate he starts to look good. Also, if the Blues are looking to make a trade and need a new 3rd line center he could be a good option, but again, coming off a back injury is a gamble. At the right price it could be a sneaky good signing, but my advice would be to stay away.
That’s all the legitimate options at Center, but there are also a few notable wingers that could use a look here as well.
Rick Nash, Left or Right Wing, Boston
Estimated Salary Range: $5 – $9 mil
Estimated Contract Length: 2 – 4 years
Should the Blues Sign him? Maybe, but he will be overpaid.
Rick Nash will be overpaid. That is a fact. He is a veteran NHL player and he has long been one of those guys that has great promise, that he never really seems to live up too. When he was younger, especially playing in Columbus, he had some great numbers. There was a period there where he was putting up over 60 points a year and scoring about 30 goals. However, since he moved to the Rangers in 2012-13, he has more or less failed to live up to those numbers. What he is now is about a 30-40 point a year guy that scores around 20 goals and gives you about 70 games on the high end. He is also 34 years old, which means he is on the decline of his career. Frankly, Nash is the kind of player that gives you a name, gets the fans excited about his signing, but will probably not live up to expectations. We already have a guy like Nash and I would pass on him unless his price comes down. I think Nash will ask for $7 mil but I doubt he’ll get it. If he decides to settle for less and the Blues need another winger for the top 6, they could do worse than signing him at about $5 mil, but for me, I would rather let him go and give that job to a younger guy. Nash is declining and the Blues don’t need another declining forward.
James van Riemsdyk, Left Wing, Toronto
Estimated Salary Range: $6 – $9 mil
Estimated Contract Length: 6 – 7 years
Should the Blues Sign him? Yes
Van Riemsdyk is a very interesting option on the market this year. He is 29 years old, a left handed left winger and a solid goal scorer. He should be good for around 30 goals a year, and last year he scored as many goals as Tavares. He doesn’t give you the assist numbers that Tavares does, which is why he’s so much cheaper than Tavares, but he could be a great 2nd option if you don’t land Tavares. He’s spent the last six years in Toronto and it wouldn’t necessarily surprise me if they re-sign him, but if he hits the market, the Blues could be a solid destination for him, especially if they can shed some salary through trade. Basically, if you fail to get Tavares, then signing Stastny and Van Riemsdyk would give you a competitive 2nd line that is capable of scoring well. Normally I would say he would be on the top line, but I think it would weaken that line to the two goal scorers on it, who tend to steal shots from each other and essentially cut into each other’s numbers. He will not be cheap and he will want a long term deal with an NTC, but the Blues could defiantly do worse if they are chasing a winger and Van Riemsdyk would be an interesting fit on a redesigned 2nd line.
Estimated Salary Range: $6 – $9 mil / $4 – $7 mil
Estimated Contract Length: 6 – 7 years, each
Should the Blues Sign them? They likely won’t get the chance.
I put these two together because I don’t expect either of them to actually hit the open market. They are both coming from Vegas, who as we all know just had a great run all the way to the cup final in their inaugural season. They came up just short against a stacked Washington Capitals team and when you come up just short, you don’t lose the core of your team unless you don’t have the cap to keep them. Vegas has that cap space and considering both Neal and Perron had career years last year, there is no reason to think that Vegas will let them hit the market. They are building a fan base and having players stay for a while is a necessary part of that, so I expect Vegas to sign both of these guys to extensions, possibly before this article even goes online. If for some reason they don’t, then I would have no problem with the Blues signing, or in the case of Perron re-signing either of these guys, they are both solid 2nd line wingers and Neal has top line potential. Neal will probably command a higher price due to his history of being a slightly better player, and I would think each of them will want a long term deal to basically eat most of their remaining career. Again, I don’t expect either of these guys to make the open market, because Vegas isn’t run by an idiot.
Ilya Kovalchuk, Right Wing, Unsigned (KHL-Russia)
Estimated Salary Range: $5 – $7 mil
Estimated Contract Length: 2 – 5 years
Should the Blues Sign him? Gamble, unknown talent level.
Ilya Kovalchuk used to be an elite level NHL player. He had the capacity to score 30+ goals a season at the NHL level and had a couple of 60 pt seasons on some relatively bad teams. He then signed a massive contract with the New Jersey Devils and then decided he didn’t want to play there anymore. He terminated that contract in 2013 and then left to play in the KHL in Russia. That is where the gamble comes in. Kovalchuk hasn’t touched NHL ice since 2012-13. He’s put up decent numbers in Russia playing about 50 games a year, they have a shorter season, and scoring 25-30 goals a year with around 50 points a season. However, no one really knows how those numbers will translate coming back to the NHL. There is a very limited set of cases to go off of and none of those players are really on Kovalchuk’s level. He was a 50-70 point a year player, but no one really knows the effect that 5 years playing against weaker opposition, in a slower and less physical league, with shorter seasons and on larger ice will have. He reportedly is looking for $6 mil a year and multiple teams are interested, so there’s a possibility that a bidding war could ensue and his price could climb, but I think anything over $7 mil is a gamble too high. As for the length, he is 35 so 5 years may seem like too long, but we have seen that the somewhat slower and less physical game in Europe, which also has a shorter season, can extend a career (see Jamir Jager for example). However, if you don’t know if he’s going to be able to perform at the NHL level again, then anything more than 2 years might be too much. Personally, I’ve always liked Kovalchuk and I wouldn’t mind seeing him in a Blues sweater. He could also make an intriguing pairing on a 2nd line with someone like Paul Stastny and it would be interesting to see how his locker room relationship with some of our younger Russians, i.e. Tarasenko and Barbashev, could develop. This signing could go either way. If he signs here and picks up right where he left off in 2012-13 then it will look like a genius move, if he falls apart like Sobotka basically has since returning, it will be a gross waste of money. There’s a lot of moving parts here and a lot of questions, but Kovalchuk is just enticing enough to risk it. This could be a great signing, especially if you move Berglund and Sobotka and find room to add a center as well. Kovalchuk could be part of one of the best 1-2 line combinations in the league and bring some real excitement.
Ryan Reaves, Right Wing, Vegas
Estimated Salary Range: $1.5 – $2.5 mil
Estimated Contract Length: 3 – 4 years
Should the Blues Sign him? Why Not?
Normally I wouldn’t put a 4th liner in an article like this, but it’s Reaves. Reaves is the best 4th liner in the league and he is an enforcer that found a way to turn himself into a better player. Reaves gives you everything you want as a 4th liner. If you asked a computer to spit out the perfect 4th line NHL player, it would give you Ryan Reaves. With that said, he adds something that every playoff team needs, but no one playoff team needs. Reaves could basically spend the rest of his career bouncing around the league from good team to good team, as every team would love to add someone like him at the deadline for a playoff run. I also think it’s possible that Vegas might let him walk. They came up just short and they fell because their defense was weak. I would expect them to sign Perron and Neal, as I said above, and then chase a defenseman to maybe have another crack at this next year. With that said, there’s a chance that Reaves could be the odd man out in their cap situation, especially considering they didn’t deem him important enough to be on the roster in the final game of the Cup finals. Ryan has friends in this locker room, he has fans in this city, and he loved living here and playing here for most of his career. One would have to think if the Blues call he would be more than happy to pick up the phone, while I wouldn’t suggest spending $2 mil on a 4th liner normally, this is the best 4th liner there is. He would provide a toughness and grit that the Blues were sorely lacking last year, and would fill in the hole that will likely be left by the exit of Thorburn. Reaves isn’t going to be the fix they really need, but he would be a good piece to add if the cap space is available after other, more important pieces are already in place.
The Blues need more forwards, the Blues need better forwards, and as you can see here, there are plenty of possible options available on the Free Agent Market. The Blues might very well address these options via trade, and there are a few trades that they could pursue, namely Ryan O’Reilly and Jeff Skinner, but they don’t necessarily have too. By just dumping a couple of overpaid players they could easily open up enough cap to splash on one or two free agents, call up a couple of rookies, and have a whole new team that would still look very competitive. If the Blues choose to address their needs primarily through Free Agency, then I would expect one of two things: 1. They sign John Tavares, call up some rookies and go from there or 2. They sign 2 forwards, a center, probably Paul Stastny and a winger, probably Van Riemsdyk or Kovalchuk and go with that. Personally I would prefer the later of those options, as the primary problem we had last year was depth scoring. Our top line, Schwartz/Schenn/Tarasenko was fine, they scored goals and had great chemistry, everything behind them was lacking in energy, scoring and chemistry. Leave what isn’t broken alone and fix what is would be my position, but if you can land an elite talent like John Tavares, then it’s hard to let that go.
Regardless of your position on that issue, this is a pretty deep Free Agent class and the Blues will have money to splash in it if they so choose. Making the necessary upgrades through Free Agency would allow the Blues to have a better team, have their cake and eat it too, and keep their top prospects that would likely be lost in a trade. It may require a little creative work from Armstrong to open up some more cap space, but it would be well worth to make this team the playoff contender that they should be.