Blues Stand Pat at Deadline – Which Was the Perfect Move

Blues forwards Ivan Barbashev (49) and Oskar Sundqvist (70) celebrate their shorthanded goal on Sunday that put the Blues up 4-1 over Minnesota. (Photo courtesy – Jeff Wheeler, Dallas Star Tribune)

The closest thing to hockey Christmas has come and gone. The trade deadline has arrived, and the St. Louis Blues were one of few teams that were dead quiet for the last 24 hours. While pieces got shipped off from rebuilding teams like Ottawa and Anaheim, other teams like the Penguins and the Hurricanes went on a total shopping spree in hopes of getting the ultimate prize.

There’s a myriad of trades and acquisitions to cover from 8am to 3pm ET today, but nothing involving the Blues. While rumors swirled around top forwards like Chris Kreider (re-signed with NYR) Kyle Palmieri (still with NJD) or Mike Hoffman (stayed with FLA), St. Louis’ biggest move was for defenseman Marco Scandella last week. The Blues acquired Scandella after the incident with Jay Bouwmeester created a hole in the otherwise solid blue line for the Blues, a hole that he’s patched up pretty well in his first couple games with the club.

Armstrong’s Conference

GM Doug Armstrong held a live press conference with Ashali Vise immediately after the deadline, discussing the choice to keep the entire roster and draft picks as is.

“We really felt we were in listening mode; if something had come across our desk that made sense,” Armstrong stated. “It was a situation where we’re getting Vladdy back, we think he should be back hopefully within the next few weeks. That’s a huge addition for us, but when that does happen he’ll have to come off Long-Term Injured Reserve, so it was a cap situation also.”

As I mentioned, the Blues only major move near the deadline was acquiring Marco Scandella from the Montreal Canadiens for picks. After just three games with St. Louis, it feels like he’s been there all year – one assist, a +5 rating and three blocked shots.

“Quite honestly, this is what we expected when we got him. He’s a big, rangy player – quite like Jay, in the sense that he can kill lots of plays with his stick,” he said of Scandella. “[He’s a] very good partner for [Colton] Parayko, and you saw his offense a little bit last night. He can jump into the attack, he can skate, he’s got a good shot, so our early returns are positive, and we hope he can continue to play like that with Colton.”

It’s the second year in a row that Armstrong has remained relatively quiet at the deadline – last year Armstrong traded a seventh-round pick for depth defenseman Michael del Zotto en route to the Blues’ eventual Stanley Cup run. Armstrong gave the credit to the players for their performance as they sit atop the Western Conference at the deadline.

“Yeah, they certainly made it where weren’t going to subtract from the team, and obviously the additions, with the news on Jay last week and getting Scandella was to support that group. They’ve earned the right to stay together… A lot of the heavy lifting was done in the East, and we’re very happy and comfortable where we’re at in the West.”

So, still on that “Jordan Kyrou and a first” bandwagon?

Job Well Done

It’s quite the statement by the general manager when he doesn’t make any notable trades. Even some of the best teams in hockey – Washington, Boston, Pittsburgh, Tampa – all made some pretty huge deals today and in the past week, picking up assets like Brenden Dillon, Ondrej Kase, Blake Coleman, Conor Sheary and even Patrick Marleau. With St. Louis making a move for Scandella and nothing else, that’s a major vote of confidence from Army that he sees no issues with the current roster, despite the recent funk of 2-7-3 after the All-Star break.

It’s also showing that Armstrong wants Tarasenko in for the regular season as soon as he’s able. While I’ve previously written that he shouldn’t rush Tarasenko back into play in fear of re-injury, I can respect that Armstrong didn’t make a knee-jerk move to add anyone to support the top 6 skaters after that rough January. The Marco Scandella trade (even though it was an overpay) is additionally a great fit to the club, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Scandella stays in St. Louis for a few more years.

Of course, the biggest question is Tarasenko’s return. We know that Tarasenko’s no stranger to this, given that he’s had a shoulder surgery before and responded with his 5th straight season scoring 65+ points and 30+ goals in 2018-19. The biggest key will be staying healthy going into the playoffs and getting his legs back in time for playoff-caliber hockey. Again, I have no fear of this; we know he basically played the Stanley Cup Final hurt and still tacked on three goals.

Personally, I applaud Armstrong’s move after seeing the returns. There weren’t a lot of hockey trades by rebuilding teams or squads like Florida or New York, which St. Louis was linked to. There were draft picks getting passed and handed around today like Halloween candy that you don’t prefer.

The return for any of the forwards on the market (which apparently did’t include Chris Kreider) would’ve called for a first-round pick at minimum, and recent play by high picks like Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou have shown smart drafting can still go a long way for your franchise. Dude, Ottawa could have 22 draft picks over the next two years…

Next Up…

Therein lies the real problem for St. Louis, however – the offseason. To the surprise of no one, the talks of Alex Pietrangelo’s re-signing is at the exact same point as they were back in September, and he and Scandella are the only UFAs for the offseason. Justin Faulk and Brayden Schenn’s contracts kick up to $6.5 million next season, and youth players like Robert Thomas, Jacob de la Rose, Sammy Blais and Mackenzie MacEachern all become RFAs within the coming years.

Long story short, there’s gonna be turnover. Either you lose the big fish, the franchise captain that hoisted the first ever Stanley Cup that will likely get his number in the rafters in the next 10, 15 years, or you lose a handful of the “middle” guys like Tyler Bozak (5M until 2021), maybe Jaden Schwartz (5.35M until 2021), maybe even Jake Allen (4.4M until 2021).

The message from management, then, is clear – go for two. The Blues have looked pretty damn good in their last four games (4-0-0, 2 goals allowed, +11 differential, 83 shots allowed), and they still have 19 games to secure their playoff positioning, with Dallas and Colorado breathing down their necks.

The competition around them, however, has only gotten heavier – Boston, Washington, Tampa and Pittsburgh all made some big adds, but the Blues’ shot at a repeat Stanley Cup is very much in the works.

Let’s go get another one, fellas.

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