The St. Louis Blues are struggling just to tread water in the 2021 season. With 21 games remaining in the season as of the end of March, the Blues are on the brink of missing the playoffs.
They cling to the final spot, with the Arizona Coyotes breathing their rancid dog breath on the necks of the Note. Other than help from getting healthy players, there seems to be little options to find help.
The Blues could bring Klim Kostin onto the NHL roster. His KHL team keeps winning, plus there would likely be a quarantine period after returning from Russia.
The salary cap is going to make life hell for Doug Armstrong. The Blues are utilizing every last penny available from the IR and LTIR list as it is.
However, there is an underutilized possibility that might work out for both parties. The Blues should kick the tires on a good, old-fashioned hockey trade.
According to Jeff Gordon of the Post-Dispatch, the New Jersey Devils are 50/50 on whether to re-sign Kyle Palmieri or trade him off. If they are inclined to do the latter option, the Blues should see what their plan is.
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In this particular proposal, the Blues and Devils would swap players and see if the other can benefit from someone who has struggled in 2021. For the Devils, the piece would be Palmieri, who only has seven goals in 32 games.
For the Blues, they would look to trade off Mike Hoffman. While I have not had as many problems with Hoffman as others, it is clear the Blues’ coaching staff is not thrilled with him. After scratching him for the March 28th game against Anaheim, Craig Berube flat out said he needs more from Hoffman and has not liked his effort.
If Hoffman was scoring goals, his defensive deficiencies would be acceptable. He is not, at least not at the clip the team needs, so those inadequacies are more in the spotlight.
A fresh start, even if just for a couple months, might reignite both players. Both are capable of so much more, so maybe a jolt will get them going.
Hoffman is capable of scoring 30 goals or more. Even if you put his average more in the high 20’s, you would think he would be into double digits in scoring instead of stuck at eight goals.
St. Louis also brought in Hoffman to help a stagnant power play. While the entire unit has been terrible, Hoffman only has one PP goal and is rarely used in that role now.
Similarly, Palmieri is under-performing. He has averaged just over 26 goals per season over the last five years, but only has the seven in 2021, as of writing.
Palmieri also had 11 power play goals each season the last and four of the last five. More importantly, from the Blues perspective, he’s got a little more edge to his game.
Prior to 2019-20, Palmieri regularly recorded 90 or more hits per season. Even last year, he had 74 hits. Compare that to Hoffman, whose career high is 40, and Palmieri fits in more with the way the Blues play.
Hoffman seems better suited to the Eastern Conference. While they get rough in the playoffs, the Eastern Conference teams play a more run-and-gun style, which would afford Hoffman more opportunities and require less defensive structure.
That’s why he was successful in Ottawa and Florida.
None of this is to say Hoffman could not be successful in St. Louis had he signed a long-term contract. Given the fact he’s only signed for 2021 and unlikely to return, just based on the money he can command, it might be best to swap him out.
Of course, convincing both general managers that rentals would be fine would be hard. Most teams want something more concrete in return, so you’re not losing a player for nothing.
Making the playoffs would be the reward. A re-energized Hoffman could potentially propel the Devils into the final playoff spot. They only trail Boston by nine points as of March 29, which would be hard, but not undoable.
Palmieri gives the Blues the grit they would want, plus some scoring punch they desperately need. The Blues already knew Hoffman was 99% likely to not come back, so what’s the difference to get the same kind of free agent in return?
Additionally, Palmieri saves you money. It’s only $350,000, but when you’re scraping by anyway, those dollars help out.
Ultimately, this trade probably won’t happen because one side or the other might ask or too much. The Blues would probably want New Jersey to retain some salary. The Devils would likely want some sort of draft compensation in return, since they seem stuck in rebuild mode.
There’s just more to gain from hockey trades than assets though. Production and wins do still count and a fresh start for these players would benefit both franchises, even if it’s short term.