By Patrick Kelly
Thus is Doug Armstrong’s 10th year with the club, and he faces a situation he hasn’t been in in quite a while, not only being on the buyer’s market but in need of some help.
The most recent trade deadline where the Blues made waves was in 2017. The Blues had been trying to move Kevin Shattenkirk and they finally found a home for him in Washington, even if he didn’t stay there long. Along with Shattenkirk the Blues also gave back goalie Phoenix Copley, who was acquired in the TJ Oshie trade two years prior. In exchange, the Blues got a 2017 first-round pick along with Brad Malone and Zach Sanford. Armstrong never used that pick though, instead flipping it and Jori Lehtera to Philadelphia in exchange for Brayden Schenn.
Probably the most well-known deadline acquisition during Armstrong’s tenure in St. Louis was when he had a big deal with the Buffalo Sabres to acquire goalie Ryan Miller and forward Steve Ott in 2014. Miller finished the season with the Blues, including starting in the playoffs. Despite the Blues taking a 2-0 lead going back to Chicago, the Hawks powered back in the series, including winning games four and five in overtime, only to close out the Blues on home ice in Game 6. This was a big letdown for Blues fans as acquiring a goalie like Miller seemed like the final piece to the puzzle that the team needed to go deep.
Ironically, Steve Ott may have been the person to work out best in that deal. Ott played three seasons with the Blues where he ingratiated himself with the team and the fans. After hanging them up after a quick stint with Detroit, Ott returned to St. Louis to help coach. After Mike Yeo was fired, Ott found himself behind the Blues bench where he still remains to this day, adding a Stanley Cup ring along the way.
What the Blues need the most now is help on the back end. With Jay Bouwmeester’s status unclear and honestly not looking good the Blues are going to have to continue to look forward. During the deadline in 2913, the Blues acquired Bouwmeester. In April of 2013 the Blues acquired Bouwmeester and Wade Redden in two different trades that saw the Blues bolster their defense. Despite this addition the Blues would go on to blow a 2-0 lead to lose in six in what would be the first of two times in a row this happened.
As has been the case in the NHL the past few years, the market for a top defender, especially a lefthanded one is few and far between. According to TSN’s “trade bait” board, four of the top 15 players listed are defenders, with only two being lefties. The top defender on the board is New Jersey’s Sami Vatanen. The Devils have already been active before the trade deadline, getting two deals finalized Sunday. The first sent defender Andy Greene to the Islanders in exchange for Dave Quenville and a 2021 second-round pick. The second trade had the Devils sending Blake Coleman to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for young defender Nolan Foote and Vancouver’s 2021 first-round pick. The Devils are in a rebuild and they need prospects and picks, both of which the Blues have. The question becomes if the Blues want to go down that road again. The past two years the Blues have moved around their pick in the first round and it obviously paid off, getting Schenn and Ryan O’’Reilly instead. The last time the Blues used their original first-round pick was to draft Robert Thomas in 2017.
As of now the only top pick the Blues don’t have going forward is their 2021 second-round pick that was given up to get O’Reilly. If the Blues want to repeat, adding at the deadline might be the best move for this club. Out of the past 14 Stanley Cup winners, the Blues were one of four teams to have not made a deadline deal. The key is also to not add too much, The Blues have Vladimir Tarasenko skating again and he will hopefully be ready for the playoffs. The idea of the Blues making a move for Chris Kreider might be too much of an asking price especially since the defense is mainly where the Blues need to fill holes. Niko Mikkola played well and was a sound defender when he was up in the NHL a month ago. Since Bouwmeester’s injury he has been called up for three games and has yet to crack the roster. Despite what the Blues have done over the past few weeks they are still tied for the first spot in the West with Dallas who lost in overtime Sunday night. The Blues had a nice cushion for a while when it took them to find their game but the rest of the West has reached their front door and the Blues need to kick back into overdrive if they want to win the Central.