Forgive Brayden Schenn. He’s probably new to the St. Louis Blues making courageous-yet-painful trades with the future in mind. After all, Schenn was part of a trade that was more about immediate results (and boy were those results brilliant early on).
Schenn vented upon learning about the Blues sending Paul Stastny to powerful division rivals in the Winnipeg Jets, and you can understand why. Schenn thought it was “crazy” to sell off Stastny, a pending UFA, with the Blues barely out of playoff position.
[A deep look at the trade]
As Mike Rupp and Anson Carter discussed on NBCSN yesterday, it’s definitely the sort of trade that can ruffle feathers in the locker room.
Sure, there might have been some weary grunts in the Blues locker room after seeing a quality center go to the Jets. No doubt about it, the move makes an already-scary Jets team a true frontrunner in a fairly wide-open West.
Schenn’s Blues teammates should probably remind him that this sort of thing has happened before, and if they’re being truly honest, it’s worked out quite well for GM Doug Armstrong.
Let’s consider the moments when the Blues “pulled off the Band-Aid” with players, either through trades or allowing them to walk in free agency, where other teams might have panicked and left themselves in a jam:
Stastny: Look, he’s definitely a nice player, and he’ll probably command less than the $7 million cap hit that’s now split between the Jets and Blues. That said, the aging curve has to be a consideration; Stastny is already 32.
Let’s not kid ourselves, either. The Blues went into the deadline on a six-game losing streak, looking pretty lifeless in getting shut out by the Predators the day before on NBC. If you think this team has a lukewarm ceiling even with Stastny – a player you might not want to keep – then why not get a first-rounder for him rather than letting him leave for nothing?
It becomes even more of a no-brainer when you consider that the Blues can use that free agent money on an upgrade. Darren Dreger speaks of the Blues “going all-in” on John Tavares. St. Louis isn’t necessarily the landing spot you’d think of for the superstar Islander, but who knows? And if they can’t get Tavares, maybe they’re keeping the door open for another nice player to supplement Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Alex Pietrangelo, and Colton Parayko.
Ryan Reaves: Another feather in Armstrong’s cap was getting a first-rounder for a dying breed. It was great value, and also softened the blow of sending a first-rounder to Philly in the Schenn trade.
Kevin Shattenkirk: At the time, the price didn’t seem that great for the big fish of free agency, but the Capitals would beg to differ in hindsight. St. Louis grabbed some interesting pieces or a guy who was going to walk in free agency, and who knows if they land Schenn if there wasn’t a first-rounder coming back here?
Shattenkirk stands as an especially brave choice being that he was still in his prime when the Blues decided he wasn’t quite a core player.
Letting David Backes and Troy Brouwer walk: People who preach the aging curve saw this coming, and plenty of others did … but Backes was this team’s captain, and Brouwer was that sandpaper guy who could score at a nice clip.
More conservative organizations probably would have re-signed one or both of them, closing the door for future upgrades and young players to emerge at cheaper prices. You could bet the Bruins and Flames would like a mulligan on Backes and Brouwer respectively.
That’s just a sampling of the moves Armstrong’s made, and some have worked out better than others (the return for T.J. Oshie isn’t the greatest, even if he wasn’t meant to stick around either way).
If you want to look at an organization that, aside from Pietrangelo going fourth in 2008, hasn’t really relied on “tanking” to stay competitive, look no further than the Blues. Sure, it’s been frustrating for fans – and sometimes players like Schenn – to see this team stop just short of finding that extra gear, but they’ve been remarkably spry in staying competitive. It wouldn’t be surprising if they slip into the playoffs, even if they end up being first-round fodder.
Of course, praise for Armstrong will grow much louder if the Blues finally make a leap. Maybe moving Stastny will help them move the needle?
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.