The St. Louis Blues have not been a big trade deadline acquisition kind of team under Doug Armstrong. That is not to say they’ve never made deals, but most have been minor to fill a hole or from necessity due to injuries.
The problem the team has in 2021 is they could use a trade to fill holes from injury, but also to help supplement a team that just has not gelled. That would cover both necessity and just holes the team has in their style or talent.
Unfortunately for fans, the likelihood of something actually getting done is slim. That does not mean Doug Armstrong will stand by and do nothing, but all the wild speculation you see on social media is about as close to garbage as it can get.
Facebook is currently filled with people posting about Buffalo sitting out Taylor Hall in anticipation of a trade. Even if we ignore the possibility of Hall being a problem in the locker room – that’s mainly fan speculation elsewhere – the reality is the Blues would severely struggle to pull that off.
In today’s trade market, teams are rarely looking for a player in return. Hockey trades are slightly less rare than a goaltender that actually plays in more than 75% of a team’s games.
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Most teams looking to sell want prospects or draft picks. The Blues are not flush with picks and their prospect pool not currently on the NHL roster or taxi squad is amazingly thin just a few seasons after it had been stocked full.
The salary cap situation is the biggest hurdle to the Blues making any kind of a move. They simply don’t have the room to add a top-tier player that could actually do some damage.
For example, Hall currently has a cap hit of $8 million. While there are ways to massage the cap beyond my understanding, the nuts and bolts of it is that the Blues only have $1.21 million left unused of their LTIR money.
That number had been higher at the start of April. It got majorly slashed to afford the return of Colton Parayko.
So, unless Doug Armstrong has some insane book keeping magic he could use, the Blues would have to trade off almost $7 million to afford a player like Hall.
Even if you’re not looking to add a scorer, it’s going to take shipping a player out to afford anything of value. Whether you’re talking about a second or third-pairing defenseman or a role-playing forward, still capable of chipping in on offense, you’re still going to be adding around $2-3 million.
That means you’re sending away a player that makes at least $1.5 million to get the math to even come close to working out. That’s harder than it seems.
The names that fit that criteria are Zach Sanford, Robert Bortuzzo, Vince Dunn, Ivan Barbashev and Sammy Blais. Maybe, and I mean maybe, you could trade Kyle Clifford and get fancy with your taxi squad usage if you didn’t want to send any of those other guys away.
However, many fans have already realized that the Blues are lacking tenacity and grit right now. Do you want to send away one of your body checking forwards for an unknown commodity?
How many defenders are available that would legitimately be an upgrade on Dunn or Bortuzzo and not have to worry about re-signing at the end of the season? It’s no secret that I have soured on Dunn, but this team already has problems with chemistry without bringing in a new defender just weeks before the end of the season.
Of course, the big answer for most fans is to trade away Mike Hoffman. That boils down to how the Blues went about it.
As mentioned, there are very few hockey trades made. New Jersey and the New York Islanders just pulled one off, but that deal negated my proposal that the Blues acquire Kyle Palmieri.
You cannot trade Hoffman for Hall straight up because the math does not work. Additionally, you’re bringing in the exact same type of player. Hall has fewer goals and points and is just as weak, if not more, defensively. Just because more people have heard of Hall means nothing as to his value.
Hoffman might not fit the Blues style, but getting equal value will be almost impossible. If you include other pieces in a deal, the Blues have to ask themselves if they want to trade up and coming players for immediate help that might not make a difference in a season that has never hit a stride for the Blues. It could be a waste and giving up on guys too early.
The reality is if Hoffman goes, there probably would not be much coming back. Maybe you could swing a draft pick that could be swapped in a completely different trade that brings a minor addition back to the Blues.
Even that idea circles back to the theme regarding the salary cap. It’s just going to be very hard for the Blues to add without subtracting multiple names, unless it’s a small trade.
It was impressive enough for them to add Hoffman prior to the season. While social media warriors are never happy and want to smash their keyboards every time you say something nice about Armstrong, he deserves a ton of credit for all the work he and his staff have done to keep the Blues cap compliant.
Given all that work, it just seems less than likely anything of note gets done by April 12 when the trade deadline comes. Maybe Armstrong will pull off something very special, but don’t get your hopes up. I fully expect a very quiet deadline for the Blues, no matter their standing in the playoff race.