Trade Deadline Blues: The opposite of Christmas for Blues fans?

Trade Deadline Blues: The opposite of Christmas for Blues fans?

You can almost feel the angst starting to bubble in Blues fans.

It’s almost time for the trade deadline. Blues fans know what they need: a scoring winger and maybe defense now that Robert Bortuzzo and Joel Edmundson are hurt. Some Blues fans even think the team needs a goalie. That’s delusional. If Jake Allen can’t, Carter Hutton has proven that he can. So Allen’s legion of online haters can relax a bit. Hutton is a pending UFA and goalies are always a buyers market, so don’t expect this issue to be addressed until the off-season at the earliest.

This is also a traditionally angsty time for Blues fans. Fueling that is what appears to be a bumper crop of scoring forwards that Blues fans are ready to salivate over. There’s Montreal’s Max Pacioretty, Edmonton’s (and STL native) Pat Maroon, Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman or Derick Brassard, or the Rangers’ Rick Nash or Michael Grabner. And plenty of others that would make that sentence just absurd in length.

Three things are certain with this list:

  1. Blues fans will have differing opinions on all of those players.
  2. If the Blues acquire one of these guys, some Blues fans will still believe it won’t be enough, partly because…
  3. …Blues fans will sit and watch as those players go to other teams, just wondering what in the -bleep- General Manager Doug Armstrong does with his time.

By Sarah Connors (ERI_4850Uploaded by Dolovis) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
All of those players do different things. Pacioretty is a seasoned power forward and leader. Maroon is a power forward who lives in front of goaltenders. Hoffman is a younger scoring winger under team control for a bit. Brassard is a veteran center…hey, I thought the Blues needed wingers? Nash is a veteran winger who may have some gas left in the tank. Grabner is a two-way winger who shoots first and passes…well, he shoots a lot.

WE’RE NOT ALONE

The Blues are not alone in the league. What team that’s contending for the playoffs couldn’t use a scoring winger on their team right about now? The Leafs, who are trying to turn around years and years of fan suffering and disappointment (kind of like the Blues honestly), have been linked to Grabner for instance.

Meanwhile, the Blues have acquired bottom-six winger Mikael Soshnikov from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a fourth-round pick. It’s an unexceptional deal in that the cost isn’t much and it’s the kind of deal that we’ve seen a lot of so far: a depth player being dealt for a middling draft pick. The thing that makes Soshnikov a bit different is that there might be some scoring upside somewhere inside all of that good character and effort that seems to be his trademark in his limited playing time with the Leafs. He’s also an RFA and shouldn’t break the bank to re-sign.

So there. The Blues have done something. Happy now?

A HISTORY OF DEADLINE FRETTING

Yeah, I didn’t think so. Let’s look at past Februaries (or March/April in 2013) for the Blues, shall we?

2010: D Steve Wagner to Pittsburgh for D Nate Guenin; G Hannu Toivonen and D Danny Richmond to Chicago for G Joe Fallon; F Aaron Palushaj to Montreal for F Matt D’Agostini; F Yan Stastny to Vancouver for F Pierre Cedric-Labrie.

Analysis: There is little here to note. Almost nothing outside of giving fans nightmares of Toivonen’s tenure (did you know the Blues once traded still-in-the-NHL Carl Soderberg for him?) and remembering that the Blues already experienced a disappointing Stastny brother before spending $7 mil per year for the other (hi Peter).

Elsewhere: The likes of Lubomir Visnovsky, Vesa Toskala, Wojtek Wolski (last seen on Kunlun Red Star’s roster), Peter Mueller, Alex Ponikarovsky (also last seen in Kunlun), J-S Giguere, Dion Phaneuf, and Ilya Kovalchuk. Those last two were really a big deal at the time.

Blues finish: 9th in Western Conference, no playoffs. We’re still in the dumpster fire years post-lockout. Be patient.

2011: D Eric Brewer to Tampa Bay for a 3rd round pick (Jordan Binnington) and the rights to something called Brock Beukeboom; F Brad Boyes to Buffalo for a 2nd round pick (Joel Edmundson); F Brad Winchester to Anaheim for a 3rd round pick (Mackenzie MacEachern). Oh, and D Erik Johnson, C Jay McClement, and a 1st round pick (Duncan Siemens) for D Kevin Shattenkirk, F Chris Stewart, and a 2nd round pick (Ty Rattie)

Analysis: This deadline was all about dumping disappointments, though that last one becomes a doozy. Brewer, who always was behind the 8-ball having been dealt for Chris Pronger, was banished to Florida and eventually turned into potential backup extraordinaire Binnington. Boyes, whose 43 and 33 goal seasons in his first two STL seasons quickly faded into the distance, morphed into Edmundson in a deal that no reasonable NHL expert will say is a win for Buffalo. I forgot Brad Winchester existed. One could argue the acquisition of Shattenkirk at the expense of 1st overall quasi-bust Johnson may have had the biggest impact trade that year. Stewart also looked like a steal at first, but his questionable motor and streaky production eventually sent him packing years later.

Elsewhere: A deadline known for decent names exchanging hands (Craig Anderson for Brian Elliott in pre-breakouts for both, Mike Fisher to Nashville, Tomas Kaberle to Boston, James Neal to Pittsburgh, Penner leaves Edmonton), but nothing tops the Shattenkirk/Johnson doozy.

Blues finish: 11th in Western Conference, no playoffs. But the building blocks are starting to form as the ghosts of post-lockout shame exit stage right.

By Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2012: G Ben Bishop to Ottawa for a 2nd round pick (Tommy Vannelli)

Analysis: I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. In the 2012 episode of “As The Goalie Turns”, Bishop ended up the odd-man out in the Brian Elliott-Jaroslav Halak two-man party. He went to Ottawa, where he played 10 and 13 games in back-to-back seasons as a non-descript backup before being dealt to Tampa next year for a Grindy McGrinder (also known as Cory Conachar) and a 4th round pick (some Swede of little note). The rest is history, including the seemingly-annual edition of “As The Goalie Turns” that has ensued ever since for the Blues.

Elsewhere: Blues fans watched players like Jeff Carter, Jack Johnson, Andrei Kostitsyn (Kunlun hat-trick!), and what remained of Brian Rolston trade hands in a less-than-thrilling February.

Blues finish: 2nd in Western Conference, 1st in Central Division, swept by Kings in second round. Nice return to form, but this is only the start of the LA Kings nightmare.

2013: F Matt D’Agostini and a conditional 7th (ended up in Florida for no one of note) to New Jersey for a conditional 4th/5th rounder (Niko Mikkola); 2nd round pick (Justin Bailey) and 5th round pick (Anthony Florentino) for D Jordan Leopold; D Mark Cundari, G Rito Berra, and 1st round pick (Emile Poirier) for D Jay Bouwmeester

Analysis: Ok, Blues fans have little to whine about here. Defense was a big need this season, particularly puck-moving defense. I remember the groans when Leopold was acquired because Blues fans didn’t think he was enough. One day later, JayBo is booking a flight to St. Louis. Leopold wasn’t great here, but JayBo’s hung around and was even good the first couple years or so. The crazy thing about all of the items the Blues dealt away is that absolutely none of them have panned out. Poirier and Bailey seem to be busts and Berra’s a journeyman who will backup your goaltender for food. And money, we’d assume. Also worth noting that the lockout to start the year made timing a bit goofy, so these deals got done in March/April.

Elsewhere: Jaromir Jagr goes to Boston, Jarome Iginla leaves Calgary to play next to Sid in Pittsburgh, Brendan Morrow joins him, and that’s basically it.

Blues finish: 4th in Western Conference, lost in 6 in 1st round to Kings. Blues fans purchase Jon Quick voodoo dolls en masse.

2014: G Jaroslav Halak, F Chris Stewart, F William Carrier, 2015 1st round pick (sent to Winnipeg, who took Jack Roslovic), 2016 3rd round pick (sent to Florida, who took Linus Nassen) to Buffalo for G Ryan Miller and F Steve Ott; F Mark Mancari to Florida for F Eric Sellick

Analysis: This deadline is known for one deal. Eric Sellick just couldn’t reach the heights that Tom…oh, it’s not that one? I’m sorry, I’ve burned the Goalie Who Shall Not Be Named’s name out of my mind, so I didn’t recognize when the words “Ryan” and “Miller” were put next to each other in a sentence. Yeah, this one was bad, but not as bad as it could have been. Miller infamously flopped and Ott became a 4th line deity, but Halak and Stewart’s careers have gone nowhere but down since this deal. Sure, Carrier is producing in the NHL…for Vegas. And not that great, mind you. With that 1st round pick, the Blues missed out on the likes of Jacob Larssen, Garbiel Carlsson, Sebastian Aho, Brandan Carlo, and other intriguing-but-not-phenom youngsters. So this really could have been worse.

Elsewhere: We had the St. Louis/Callahan deal with Tampa/NY Rangers, Thomas Vanek moving to a forgettable stint with Montreal, Marian Gaborik starting his career wind-down with the Kings, a Tim Thomas/Dan Ellis swap you probably forgot happened, and Devan Dubnyk getting punted from Nashville for future considerations from Montreal.

Blues finish: 2nd in Central Division, lost in 6 to Chicago in first round. The Kings demon is gone, replaced by the Blackhawks demon who never really went away, but now is attacking with menace.

By Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
2015: F Maxim Lapierre to Pittsburgh for F Marcel Goc (technically Jan. 27, but close enough); Future considerations to Columbus for a second tour with F Adam Cracknell; F Maxim Letunov to Arizona for D Zbynek Michalek; D Ian Cole to Pittsburgh for D Robert Bortuzzo and a 7th round pick (Filip Helt, who also was that year’s Mr. Irrelevant); F Joakim Lindstrom and a 6th round pick (Nicholas Mattinen) to Toronto for F Olli Jokinen

Analysis: Lots of spare parts exchanging hands, but each one has a bit of a story to it. Fans in St. Louis liked Lapierre’s sandpaper quality, but Goc was considered a more polite defensive forward and a faceoff maven. Odd trade that’s too irrelevant to declare a success or failure. Cracknell was a body who was a body before he left STL, was a body when he returned to STL, and was a body when he left STL again. Michalek was supposed to be the rigid defender the Blues needed. He was decent, but apparently missed Arizona and re-upped there in the offseason. I mean, the weather’s nice in Arizona, but have you seen their hockey team lately? Cole was a malcontent who wanted a chance elsewhere. Bortuzzo seems to have essentially filled his last pairing/7th defender role and seems quite happy to, unlike the mopey Cole. Lindstrom was also a malcontent who found life in the NHL hard after being imported from Sweden. Jokinen didn’t do a lot before suffering a season-ending injury. There, a bunch of relatively uninteresting trades hopefully made relatively interesting.

Elsewhere: Other players that changed teams this deadline were Sven Baertschi, Erik Cole, Keith Yandle, Kimmo Timonen, and Jaromir Jagr in his last (good) NHL stop in Florida. Leading up to the deadline, you also had a notable Buffalo/Winnipeg hockey trade featuring Evander Kane and Zack Bogosian being moved for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, and other pieces. Also, Devan Dubnyk moved to Minnesota, where he finally learned how to be a happy and productive goalie after a wayward career.

Blues finish: 1st in Central Division, lost in six to Minnesota. Oh what potential this season had, but the Wild simply played in a style that the Blues just couldn’t crack. Don’t worry, the fun year is coming.

2016: G Niklas Lundstrom and a 5th round pick (Graham McPhee) to Edmonton to G Anders Nilsson. No seriously, that’s it.

Analysis: The Blues were in a bit of a pickle and needed a warm body capable of being a backup as both Jake Allen and Brian Elliott dealt with various injuries. Nilsson got in three games for the Blues before being dumped on Buffalo in the offseason. And that sums up the trade deadline for the Blues in 2016.

Elsewhere: January was fun, when Ryan Johanson went to Nashville and Lecavalier/Schenn went to LA. Then, in February, Phaneuf is exiled from Toronto up to Ottawa, Ladd returns to Chicago, Eric Staal leaves Carolina for the Rangers, and Markus Granlund goes to Vancouver and Calgary gets Hunter Shinkaruk in an interesting swap of youth. Deadline day itself sees quite a few moves, but few impact players, though Edmonton does get Pat Maroon on this day.

Blues finish: 2nd in Central Division, lost in six to San Jose in Western Conference Finals. Oh, beating Chicago felt soooooo good. Then, beating Dallas made Blues fans feel this unfamiliar feeling of hope before the team wilted against the Sharks. Still, it was fun while it lasted, even if years of my life were lost due to stress during the Chicago series. And hey, the Blues did nothing at the deadline and look where they got.

2017: D Kevin Shattenkirk and G Pheonix Copley (no typo) to Washington for F Brad Malone, F Zach Sanford, 2017 1st round pick (major chip in Brayden Schenn trade, Philly took Morgan Frost here) and 2nd round pick in 2019

Analysis: Another one-deal deadline for the Blues, but this one is kind of big. In the year that led up to this deal, just about the entire hockey world it seemed knew that Shattenkirk was a pending UFA. The hockey world also knew that, despite his talent, he was always going to live in Alex Pietrangelo’s shadow in St. Louis, deserved or otherwise. With the Blues being tight up to the cap, Blues GM Doug Armstrong had to move him or lose him for nothing. After months and months of trying and months and months of rumors (Shattenkirk-for-Drouin was a popular one and one that TSN’s Bob McKenzie noted could have actually happened had Shattenkirk not rejected a proposed extension in Tampa), he goes to Washington for a return most Blues fans groaned at. But in a weird turn of events for a player without a NMC or NTC, Shatty held all the cards. He made it clear to anyone who would listen it seemed that he wanted to play in New York, and teams were reluctant to deal the really nice stuff for him. In the end, getting a 1sts and a potentially useful forward in Sanford wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Plus, that 1st helped the Blues not only acquire Schenn in the offseason, but also rid the Blues of the scourge that was Jori Lehtera and his bloated, unproductive $4.7 million-per-year contract.

Elsewhere: Patrick Eaves went to Anaheim and Ben Bishop went to the Kings for bucket of hockey pucks. Iginla and Vanek also moved, but this was kind of a boring trade deadline outside of the Shattenkirk saga.

Blues finish: 3rd in Central Division, lost in six to Nashville in 2nd round. Can’t really fault the Blues here as Nashville looked unbeatable.

SO WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED, KIDS?

There’s some interesting notes to take away from all of that text above:

  1. The Blues have been known for deadline fireworks. The Shattenkirk saga was a shining example of this, along with the Goalie Who Shall Not Be Named from Buffalo, and the Bouwmeester trade.
  2. The Blues have also been known to be patient. Again, Shattenkirk applies as you just knew Armstrong was working the phones, but Shattenkirk had the situation by the proverbial grapefruits, so there wasn’t much he could do.
  3. Minor deals can matter, too. Look at all those minor deals in 2015. Each one had a semi-interesting story attached to it and each had an impact one way or another.
  4. The deadline is a good way to shed problems. Yesterday’s Eric Brewer, Brad Boyes, and Erik Johnson can be today’s Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, and Alex Steen. Dealing Steen would be pretty bold, but then again, dealing Johnson was bold at the time, too.
  5. The deadline can also be heartbreaking. Ben Bishop, we miss you.

THE SIXTH THING

This deadline feels a bit different from the last eight deadlines. That’s because there’s some serious quality that’s seemingly available. Last year, it was Shattenkirk and some pieces like Vanek and Iginla. This year? Pacioretty, Maroon, Hoffman, Brassard, Grabner, Nash, Jack Johnson, Evander Kane, and even James Neal or David Perron depending on what Vegas decides to do with them. And with Robby Fabbri out for the season, Sanford only getting up to speed, and the disappointments that Sobotka, Berglund, and even Steen have been, the pressure is on for Armstrong to pull the trigger on a scoring winger.

And the Blues do have the pieces to do it. Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou are arguably top-15 prospects in all of hockey right now. Tage Thompson is highly regarded and has had success at the NHL level. Klim Kostin is an extremely intriguing Russian bull that needs a bit of US seasoning before he’s ready for prime time. Ville Husso could be the answer to a question the Blues have been trying to answer since Grant Fuhr stood between the pipes for the Bluenote.

But…as you can tell from above, a trade deadline move is no guarantee of success. In fact, most deadline moves can be quite boring, as many of this year’s moves have already been.

Even if you read this top to bottom, though, you may be mashing the F5 key on your computer repeatedly, just waiting to see if the Blues will get that big stud that is available this deadline. After 50 years without a Stanley Cup, no one would blame you if you did.

Your move, Doug.

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