St. Louis Blues Continue Head-Scratching Moves In Free Agency

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 28: Chris Thorburn
NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 28: Chris Thorburn /
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Free agency opened with a whimper when it came to the St. Louis Blues. Thank goodness for the NHL Draft and those trades or else these moves would be even more puzzling.

The St. Louis Blues continue to be a puzzling team when it comes to the direction they want to head in. We keep getting so many mixed signals from Doug Armstrong that you have no idea what’s going on.

The St. Louis Blues made three signings of note when free agency began. They brought in unrestricted free agents Chris Thorburn and Beau Bennett and signed restricted free agent Oskar Sundqvist.

We’ll start with the last one first. Signing Sundqvist made the most sense.

It’s 50/50 whether he actually attains regular NHL status, but he was still billed as an important piece in the Ryan reaves trade. Letting him walk would have been one of the most foolish things ever unless his agent was after some unrealistic payday.

Bennett’s signing is fine, but met mostly with a shoulder shrug. He’s signing a very team-friendly deal, but it isn’t that exciting of a signing.

Bennett has 24 career goals. He’s never played a full season, though he did just play 60 games last year with the New Jersey Devils. He’s also coming off career highs in goals (8) and points (19).

Bennett is also only 25. So, there is room to grow, but likely he is more a depth piece to use if someone gets injured.

The question is where do you intend to use him? Price-wise, he fits in with the fourth line. He’s kind of a tweener though, not quite seeming to fit in with a third line but a bit too talented to be all the way on the fourth.

The real head-scratcher is the signing of Thorburn. The deal itself is whatever. Two years at $900,000 per season is no big deal.

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We were told in recent days to expect it too. Thorburn was not the name, but all indications pointed to the Blues going after a fourth-line type of player. Why is beyond me.

I can usually justify most moves made by this organization. However, this seems to fly in the face of their actions just a couple weeks ago.

When Ryan Reaves was traded away, we were all discussing how the enforcer role is disappearing in the NHL, so it made sense. OK, that’s fine. Whether we agreed with the sentiment, we were adjusting to the reality.

Armstrong then said he did not see a Reaves replacement coming either internally or externally. Again, fine.  Suddenly the sentiment changed though.

“We brought in Chris Thorburn to solidify our bottom-six group after losing Ryan Reaves,” Armstrong said in the stlouisblues.com article. “Our research says he has unbelievable character… When you have your teammates’ backs all the time like Thorburn, you gain that instant respect. He’s a big man – about 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds. He’s a good fit for what we needed.”

So, why look for a fourth-liner? Why not transition completely into a more skilled team, letting your younger guys have more time and role four lines out that all can do something offensively?

Instead, the Blues sign Thorburn. He’s a player that plays similar to Reaves – more an instigator than fighter – puts up around the same amount of points, might not skate as well and is four years older.  And this nonsense of saying “bottom-six” is annoying.  He’s a fourth line guy.  If Thorburn is on your third line, you’re in trouble.

I’m not saying you don’t trade Reaves. The additions of Sundqvist and Klim Kostin are enough to justify the move. However, I just don’t get why you seek out Ryan Reaves-lite.

Again, what is this team trying to become? If we get bigger, we don’t have enough speed. When they try to get faster, Armstrong says they don’t have the bodies anymore.

Try to get younger and he looks to veterans in free agency. It’s just all puzzling.

These additions might be great. Perhaps they’ll find that locker room chemistry that made the team so good in 2015-16.

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As pure signings, from a fan perspective, it makes no sense. That’s nothing against the individuals, because they aren’t going to be the difference between winning it all or not. They are just filler pieces. It’s just questionable why the Blues needed to go in this sort of direction at all.

I understand the idea of not throwing rookies to the wolves. Not everybody adapts like Robby Fabbri. Still, there just seems to be a discrepancy between what Armstrong says and what he does.