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 phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Scroll Down For:

    Predators-Avalanche postponed due to water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Friday’s game between the Nashville Predators and the Colorado Avalanche has been postponed because of a water main break that has soaked the downtown arena.

    The NHL said the water main break has “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store.

    The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    A makeup date for the  game will be announced later.

    Also, a decision on whether to postpone the Predators’ home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets will be made later.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue in Nashville for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

    Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.

    Carrier, Pietrangelo rally Golden Knights past Canucks 5-4

    Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Pietrangelo scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period and had two assists as the Vegas Golden Knights rallied past the Vancouver Canucks 5-4 on Monday night.

    William Carrier scored twice and Mark Stone had a goal and an assist for the Golden Knights (15-4-1), who overcame a 4-2 deficit in the third. Reilly Smith also scored, while Jack Eichel and Alec Martinez each had two assists.

    Logan Thompson made 25 saves for Vegas, which had a go-ahead goal wiped out in the third but still kept pushing.

    “I don’t think that’s really how we drew it up,” Pietrangelo said. “A lot of emotions. Obviously we score and then it gets taken back. But I’ll tell you what, it’s not easy to win on the road and you’ve got to give credit to our group – we were resilient no matter what happened.”

    Vancouver (6-10-3) got a goal and an assist from Andrei Kuzmenko. Bo Horvat, Luke Schenn and Elias Pettersson also scored, and Quinn Hughes had two assists.

    Thatcher Demko stopped 33 shots for the Canucks, who gave up a multi-goal lead in a loss for the seventh time this season.

    “Inexcusable,” defenseman Luke Schenn said.

    “That’s nothing to do with systems or what the coaches are telling us. That comes down to battle and compete and, we’re getting outmuscled and outbattled in front of the net and in the blue paint,” he added. “Everyone just needs to be better in front of (Demko) there and that’s where games are won and lost.”

    Vegas appeared to take the lead midway through the third period, but the goal was disallowed because of a bizarre bounce.

    A clearing attempt by the Canucks hit the lens of a camera sticking through one of the media holes in the glass, knocking a piece of it onto the ice. Play continued at that end and Stone put the puck in the net. But after a video review, the goal was overturned and an official said the whistle should have been blown to stop play.

    About four minutes later, Pietrangelo did give the Golden Knights a 5-4 advantage when he collected a puck from Stone and sent a backhand past Demko from the low slot at 14:14.

    Vancouver scored three straight goals early in the third to go up 4-2 before Vegas roared back.

    “We let them score one, kind of changed the momentum quick and then they scored another one. So I don’t know,” Pettersson said. “We just can’t let that happen. It’s been happening way too many times this season.”

    Carrier made it 4-3 with his second of the night at 6:54, sending in a rebound from the top of the crease for his sixth of the season.

    “Once they scored one it was like, `Uh oh, here we go again.’ And we’re back on our heels and they came at us, and then they got three,” Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau said.

    Smith shoveled a puck into the Vancouver net at 8:57 to tie it.

    “We just win some pucks below their goal line and get it to the front of the net and force them to defend an area they haven’t done as good a job as they’d probably like this year there,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We didn’t do a very good job to start a third there, and then it snowballs a little bit. You have a little life and you get a couple more pucks to the net and a second chance.”

    ON A ROLL

    Horvat drew the Canucks even 1:47 into the third with a wrist shot from the hash marks. Vancouver’s captain has 15 goals, second-most in the NHL behind Connor McDavid (16). … Brock Boeser‘s assist on the first goal of the game extended his point streak to seven games (two goals, six assists).

    MARKING MILESTONES

    Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault played his 500th regular-season NHL game. Now in his 10th season, the 31-year-old center suited up for Columbus, Tampa Bay and Florida before Vegas selected him in the 2017 expansion draft. … Vancouver defenseman Ethan Bear made his 200th regular-season appearance.

    UP NEXT

    Golden Knights: Host the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday in the opener of a three-game homestand.

    Canucks: Begin a three-game trip Wednesday at Colorado.