For NHL Trade Deadline approach, Blues should echo bold moves from past

For plenty of NHL teams during trade deadlines, the “buy or sell” question comes down to the present (contending in the short term) or future (a full rebuild). But what about teams in the middle? It’s a question the Blues pondered before, and their past experiences should guide them during the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline.

Blues have been medium sellers during past NHL trade deadlines of uncertainty

When I think of shrewdest instance of a team stuck somewhat in the middle becoming medium-sized trade deadline sellers, thoughts instantly gravitate to the Sharks in 2013. The Sharks aimed to “reset on the fly” by selling high on Ryane Clowe, Douglas Murray, and Michal Handzuš. They didn’t burn everything down — they brought in some players, though for lesser assets — and fell in a Round 2 Game 7 series to the Kings.

It’s an impressive moment that stands out, but the Blues don’t need to use the Sharks’ 2013 trade deadline as a template. They have their own experiences.

Back in 2016-17, the Blues made the difficult decision to trade Kevin Shattenkirk to the Capitals. That trade netted the Blues high draft picks, and Zach Sanford. St. Louis managed to reach the second round, too.

A year later, they once again made the necessary choice to trade a key pending UFA in Paul Stastny for a package including a first-rounder. While the Blues didn’t make the playoffs that season, they won their first-ever Stanley Cup in 2018-19.

Clearly, the Blues didn’t gut their entire core in walking away when they had to. That goes for trading T.J. Oshie and letting David Backes leave via free agency, too.

Considering the fact that the Blues made a massive, risky investment in the Jordan Binnington extension just this month, they likely don’t want to blow everything up. But they might want to channel the spirit of those previous trades.

Tricky free agent decisions to make, and to consider around deadline time

When you look at the Blues’ roster, you’ll see several lengthy contract commitments. Binnington, Brayden Schenn, Torey Krug, Justin Faulk, and to a lesser extent Marco Scandella all have serious term. Such contracts might make the Blues that much more reluctant to consider a full rebuild.

Between possible trade targets and the need to budget against a flat salary cap, the Blues have some looming free agent situations that could force some juggling.

It’s probably easiest to highlight some of the contracts expiring after 2020-21, or next season.

(As usual, Cap Friendly served as a key resource for these contract details.)

Blues 2021 NHL Trade Deadline Dunn Hoffman Perron
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Pending UFAs/RFAs after this season

  • Jaden Schwartz, 28, is the type of player the Blues probably don’t want to trade. That said, he’s dealt with injuries here and there. He also might want a substantial raise from his $5.35 million AAV. Could those factors make Schwartz the next Stastny/Shattenkirk?
  • Speaking of looming raises, 21-year-old Robert Thomas has become important to St. Louis. Even as an RFA, he could be pricey.
  • Mike Hoffman, 31, raised eyebrows as a recent healthy scratch. The way he was scratched won’t exactly entice buyers.

His $4M AAV might not help, either. Unless it was an interesting piece of a Tetris-like puzzle to make various moves work?

  • Speaking of problem prices with an outside chance at being building blocks, Tyler Bozak, 35, carries a $5M cap hit.
  • Along with Hoffman, the Blues haven’t exactly put together a great sales presentation for 24-year-old defenseman Vince Dunn. Perhaps it boils down to the Blues wanting more than is being offered for the pending RFA? He’s one of those blueliners who inspire mixed reactions, like a budget version of Shattenkirk during his Blues days.

Two years or more

  • Currently on LTIR, Colton Parayko, 27, is headed for a big raise once his $5.5M expires after 2021-22.
  • David Perron, 32, will cost more than $4M following next season, too.
  • Vladimir Tarasenko, 29, and Ryan O'Reilly, 30, both carry $7.5M cap hits, and both of their deals end after 2022-23.

So, in the short and longer term, the Blues must factor those situations while managing the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline. Of course, there’s also the Seattle Kraken circling the waters headed into the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

How will murky playoff outlook impact Blues’ view of trade deadline?

On March 26, Craig Berube insisted that it’s not panic time for the Blues, as The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford reported (sub. required).

“There’s no quit here,” Berube said after the first of two recent losses to the Ducks. “This team’s not going to quit. They’ve got good, character people, good leadership. We’ll fight through it.”

Yes, the Blues might go down fighting. Yet, even with great efforts, they still face serious risks of missing the playoffs.

Just look at their terrifying April schedule.

Date Opponent
Fri. 2 at Avalanche
Sat. 3 at Avalanche
Mon. 5 vs. Golden Knights
Wed. 7 vs. Golden Knights
Fri. 9 vs. Wild
Sat. 10 vs. Wild
Mon. 12 at Wild
Wed. 14 vs. Avalanche
Sat. 17 at Coyotes
Tue. 20 vs. Avalanche
Thu. 22 vs. Avalanche
Sat. 24 vs. Avalanche
Mon. 26 at Wild
Wed. 28 at Wild
Fri. 30 vs. Wild

Yikes. There aren’t many great times to draw the Avalanche six times in one month, but the Blues face them on a tear. Six games against the Wild probably won’t make Blues scorers feel particularly uplifted, either. The Golden Knights remain a power in their own right, and the Coyotes may still be battling the Blues for a playoff spot by April 17.

None of this guarantees that St. Louis is doomed.

After all, the Blues won a Stanley Cup after just about everyone counted them out. Perhaps a make-or-break stretch might just propel them to another run?

The most likely scenario might be a familiar one: somewhere in the middle. If so, the Blues should treat the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline like ones not that long ago, and make the sort of brave decisions other teams are too afraid to make.

After all, they’ve done it before under Doug Armstrong. In fact, they’ve done it two years in a row, and not that long ago.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Flyers trade Pride-night boycott defenseman Provorov in 3-team deal

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    Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports
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    PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Flyers have traded Ivan Provorov, sending away the defenseman who boycotted the team’s Pride night as part of a three-team trade that included the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Los Angeles Kings.

    The seventh overall pick of the 2015 draft, the 26-year-old Provorov lands in Columbus and is set to enter the fifth season of a $40.5 million, six-year contract. He was the centerpiece Tuesday of the first major move under new Flyers’ leadership.

    There were plenty of moving parts in the three-team deal.

    — Philadelphia traded Provorov and forward Hayden Hodgson to Los Angeles in exchange for goalie Cal Petersen, defenseman Sean Walker, defenseman Helge Grans and the Kings’ 2024 second-round pick. The Kings lost in the first round of the playoffs.

    — Columbus acquired defenseman Kevin Connauton from Philadelphia in exchange for a 2023 first-round pick (22nd overall) and a conditional second-round pick in either the 2024 or 2025 NHL Draft. Columbus acquired Provorov from Los Angeles in exchange for Connauton.

    The Flyers already hold the No. 7 pick in this season’s draft and now also have the 23rd pick as they start accumulating key assets for long-range success in what is expected to be a deep draft.

    Flyers general manager Danny Briere had said no player was untouchable after the Flyers missed the playoffs for the third straight season and went to work with the Stanley Cup Final still underway. The Flyers named broadcaster Keith Jones team president last month and he is still working the Final for TNT. But it’s clear the overdue rebuild is underway for a franchise that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in 48 years.

    “We felt that the picks and the direction that we wanted to go in, it was really enticing, very exciting,” Briere said. “We have a chance to really start building the team the way we wanted. The right way.”

    Briere said the Flyers are “open for business” this summer and that included potentially listening to offers for No. 1 goalie Carter Hart. Coach John Tortorella, Briere and Jones have all tempered offseason expectations for any fan looking for a quick fix. The trio all insist the Flyers have a cohesive plan for the future.

    Provorov had 65 goals and 217 points in 532 career games with the Flyers. The Russian was widely criticized in January when he cited his Russian Orthodox religion as the reason he did not participate in pregame warmups when the Flyers wore Pride-themed jerseys and used sticks wrapped in rainbow Pride tape.

    “I respect everybody’s choices,” Provorov said after the game. “My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion.”

    Now, he’s traded during Pride month.

    Briere said the backlash over Pride night had nothing to do with trading Provorov.

    The Blue Jackets, who missed the playoffs this season, were ready to take a flier on a defenseman seemingly with many productive years ahead.

    “Improving our blue line has been a priority for us and acquiring Ivan gives us an established left-shot defenseman who is still a young player with his best seasons in front of him,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “He immediately improves our group on defense as he is durable, has great skill, skates well, is an excellent passer with an accurate shot and can effectively play at both ends of the ice.”

    Provorov said at the end of the season he wasn’t necessarily happy the Flyers planned to rebuild but understood the decision. Briere declined to say if Provorov wanted out of Philadelphia.

    “I wouldn’t say it’s the most positive news you can hear, but there’s a bright future here, and there’s a lot of great players that can keep growing,” Provorov said in April. “Obviously, it depends on how quick everybody gets better and how quickly the team game gets better. I think that’s what determines the length of the rebuild.”

    Turns out, the potential success out of the haul the Flyers got for Provorov just may determine the length of the rebuild.

    Golden Knights take 2-0 lead in Stanley Cup Final with 7-2 win over Panthers

    Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

    LAS VEGAS — No team in over 25 years has been more dominant than the Vegas Golden Knights through the first two games of a Stanley Cup Final.

    They have outscored the Florida Panthers by eight goals, including a 7-2 victory in Game 2 that put the Knights two wins from the first championship in the franchise’s short six-year history.

    It will take a rare rally for the Panthers to come back as the series shifts to Florida for Game 3 on Thursday. Teams that took a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final are 31-3 in the expansion era, but the Panthers opened the playoffs by storming back from 3-1 down to beat the heavily favored Boston Bruins.

    Florida will have to significantly up its level of play to beat a Vegas team that won by three goals on Saturday and then five in this game. The last team to win the first two games of a Cup Final by more than eight combined goals was the 1996 Colorado Avalanche – who outscored the Panthers by nine.

    “I think our depth has been a strength all year,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It is the biggest reason we are still here, why we beat Winnipeg, Edmonton, Dallas. I just feel that we have the best team from player one through 20.”

    Jonathan Marchessault scored twice for the Knights and started an early blitz that chased Sergei Bobrovsky, the NHL’s hottest postseason goalie.

    Marchessault also had an assist to finish with three points. His 12 postseason goals set a Golden Knights record, with all of them coming after the first round. The only player with more following the opening round was Pavel Bure, who scored 13 for Vancouver in 1994.

    “They want to set the tone with being undisciplined like Game 1 and we set the tone back,” Marchessault said. “It was scoring that first goal there. But we’re still pretty far from our goal here.”

    Brett Howden scored twice for the Knights, who also got goals from Alec Martinez, Nicolas Roy and Michael Amadio. Six players had at least two points for Vegas, all 18 Knights skaters were on the ice for even-strength goals and their nine goal scorers through the first two games are a Stanley Cup Final record. The Knights’ seven goals tied a franchise mark for a playoff game.

    It was too much for Bobrovsky, who was removed 7:10 into the second period down 4-0. It was the fifth time in 12 games the Knights have chased the opposing goalie.

    Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, carried Florida through the Eastern Conference playoffs. Coming into the Stanley Cup Final, he had won 11 of his past 12 starts with a 1.95 goals-against average and .942 save percentage during that stretch. But he’s given up eight goals in 87 minutes against Vegas, compiling a 5.52 GAA and .826 save percentage in the series.

    “We can be a little better in front of our goaltender,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “I got him out to keep him rested.”

    Matthew Tkachuk and Anton Lundell scored for Florida.

    Adin Hill continued his stellar play in net with 29 saves for the Knights. Hill once again brought his feistiness as well as his A-game. He stopped Carter Verhaeghe on a breakaway in the first, and later that period hit Tkachuk, who was in his net, with his blocker and then slashed him with his stick.

    “He’s been unreal for us,” Vegas forward William Carrier said. “He’s been unbelievable.”

    A group of four fans behind one of the nets wore sweaters that spelled out his last name, and Hill has often received the loudest cheers from Knights fans, reminiscent of when Marc-Andre Fleury was in goal for Vegas in its first three seasons.

    “It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey,” Hill said. “I’m just enjoying it, cherishing every day. It’s been awesome to be part of the journey with this team.”

    The Knights were dominant early, taking a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Marchessault and Martinez. It was Vegas’ third game in a row with a power-play goal, its first such stretch since Christmas week.

    The Panthers lost their biggest, toughest defenseman early in the game when Radko Gudas was injured on a hit by Vegas forward Ivan Barbashev. Gudas left 6:39 in and did not return.

    That was one of several big hits by Barbashev, the Golden Knights’ biggest trade-deadline acquisition, a Stanley Cup champion with St. Louis in 2019. Barbashev broke the sternum of Colorado defenseman Samuel Girard during the playoffs last year, also on a clean hit.

    Vegas had its own scare late in the second period when Jack Eichel was nailed in the right shoulder by Tkachuk. Eichel returned in the third and set up Marchessault’s second goal for his second assist of the game.

    “We did a good job managing momentum tonight,” Eichel said. “And we got some timely goals.”

    Ducks hire former Leafs, Islanders assistant Greg Cronin as head coach

    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

    ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Anaheim Ducks have hired veteran NHL assistant and AHL head coach Greg Cronin to be their new head coach.

    Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek announced the decision to hire the 60-year-old Cronin, who will be a first-time NHL head coach.

    Cronin has 12 years of experience as an NHL assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs and in two stints with the New York Islanders. The Massachusetts native has been the head coach of the AHL’s Colorado Eagles since 2018, and he spent six years as a collegiate head coach at Northeastern.

    Verbeek called Cronin “the ideal fit” to take over a young, rebuilding team.

    “I felt we needed a teacher of the finer points of the game, and someone who has worked extensively over time with talented young players, helping them develop into successful NHL players,” Verbeek said. “Greg has done all that and more.”

    Cronin replaces Dallas Eakins, whose contract wasn’t renewed in April after the Ducks finished their fourth consecutive losing season of his tenure. Anaheim finished in last place in the overall NHL standings at 23-47-12.

    The Ducks never finished higher than sixth in the Pacific Division during Eakins’ four years in charge. They’ve missed the playoffs in a franchise-record five straight seasons, and Anaheim was the NHL’s worst defensive team of the 21st century by several measures during the just-completed season.

    Cronin takes over a struggling team that is still loaded with young talent, including the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft and a wealth of farm prospects seemingly ready to break into the NHL. Anaheim has a solid long-term base with playmaking center Trevor Zegras, two-time All-Star Troy Terry and promising forward Mason McTavish.

    Cronin has never led an NHL bench, but he interviewed for the Boston Bruins’ vacancy a year ago.

    He becomes only the Ducks’ fourth permanent head coach since Henry and Susan Samueli bought the franchise from Disney in 2005, joining Randy Carlyle, Bruce Boudreau and Eakins.

    Canadiens sign Cole Caufield to 8-year, $62.8 million extension

    David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

    MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens signed Cole Caufield to an eight-year, $62.8 million contract extension.

    The deal, which will pay the 22-year-old winger an average annual salary of $7.85 million, runs through the 2030-31 season.

    Caufield scored 26 goals and added 10 assists in 46 games in 2022-23 before he underwent season-ending surgery on his right shoulder in February.

    Despite missing nearly half the season, Caufield led the Canadiens in goals for the second consecutive season, tied with Nick Suzuki.

    Montreal selected Caufield in the first round (15th overall) of the 2019 draft.

    Since making his NHL debut in 2020-21, the forward has 84 points (53 goals, 31 assists) in 123 NHL games.