At 11:15am yesterday, it was announced that the St. Louis Blues were trading centerman Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for the Jets 2018 1st round pick, prospect Erik Foley, and a conditional 4th round draft pick. The trade on the surface appears to be good for both teams, as the Jets have acquired their coveted center they have been looking for in the trade market. On the flip side, the Blues once again have a 1st round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, after dealing their original pick to the Philadelphia Flyers last summer in the Brayden Schenn deal. They also acquired Erik Foley, a high-end prospect which adds to an already stacked Blues prospect pool. Considering most believe Stastny would not be re-signing in St. Louis this summer, the move seems like a great one made by Blues GM Doug Armstrong.
It was the first major move the Blues made on the trade deadline day. Since it appeared that Armstrong was not going into buying mode for either Mike Hoffman or Max Pacioretty, Stastny being the first player traded from the Blues on deadline day made it seem that Armstrong was going into full sell mode. The team has just dropped six straight games, and word around the team is that there are some locker room issues between players.
Names that often came up causing controversy were Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka. Both players catch heat from fans for just “playing for a paycheck” and it does not help that Armstrong way overpaid them both for their current contracts. The night before the trade deadline, Eliotte Friedman reported that the Columbus Blue Jackets inquired on both Blues players, as they are gearing up for a playoff run. It seemed imminent that these two would be dealt before the 2:00pm deadline Monday afternoon. But neither player was dealt.
Another name that had popped up in potential trade pieces was Alexander Steen. Steen is another bad contract Army has dealt out, as he is set to make $5,750,000 each season until he is 37 years old. His contract also features a no trade clause. Steen is one of the longest currently tenured Blues, but his production has dropped. Steen has also been known for his disruptions in the locker room, as he and former Blues coach Ken Hitchcock feuded often.
One unpopular idea the Blues could have explored at the trade deadline was dealing goaltender Carter Hutton. Hutton is having a great season, and his trade value had never been higher. It is unlikely the Blues move on from Jake Allen yet, even into the offseason, meaning Hutton will probably sign elsewhere this summer to seek a role that sees him as a potential starter. Since Hutton is bound to walk as long as the Blues do not give up on Allen, it would have made perfect sense to deal Hutton, as he would certainly have gained interest from current playoff teams or teams in the hunt.
But by Armstrong just dealing away Stastny and Stastny alone, he puts the Blues in an odd spot. He did not go out and acquire talent for a playoff push, but he also did not deal away multiple core players to start a rebuild. Armstrong has in turn put the current state of the Blues franchise in limbo. You cannot be a rebuilding team and at the same time be gearing it up for a big playoff run. Armstrong did not do either, leading toward mass uncertainty of the team going forward.
Had the Blues literally gone out and dealt Berglund, Sobotka, Steen, and Hutton along with Stastny, there is no doubt they would packing it in and put any playoff hopes to rest. But they would have gotten rid of some bad contracts and started back at square one. That would have not necessarily been a terrible thing. The current core group of players just cannot get it done and it has been proved over the years. Disbanding them could have and should have been done. The team already has minimal playoff chances to start with, and even if they get there, we are looking at most likely a first-round exit anyway. So, blowing up the roster at the trade deadline in the end could have been beneficial for the team, especially considering the talent in the free agent class this summer.
Doug Armstrong missed a big chance to make things happen before the trade deadline. He could have gotten rid of some cancerous locker room attitudes, along with some horrific contracts he handmade, and jumpstarted the Blues into a new era. Yes, the moves would have jeopardized any playoff hopes. But what is the point of holding out hope for this season when the team (even with Stastny) certainly does not have the depth nor wherewithal to make a run for the cup? Doug Armstrong truly missed a chance to right some of his wrongs at the 2018 trade deadline. Instead, where are left with uncertainty of which direction the franchise is headed in. Oh yeah, and Army was just handed a four-year contract extension for doing practically the bare minimum as a GM. Unless Army pulls something extraordinary out of his pocket this summer, we are in store for four more years of mediocrity and false hope.