The St. Louis Blues and the rest of the NHL seem to be allowing the Tampa Bay Lightning to have their celebration time. There was a lot of talk about trades starting to pick up once the Stanley Cup Final was over, but other than a couple minor deals, there has not been much going on.
Nevertheless, things are going to pick up at a brisk pace before we get to the month of August. The expansion draft, the NHL Entry Draft and free agency all begin in the next few weeks.
With free agency being a little thin for what the Blues need, perhaps the trade market better suits them. After all, Doug Armstrong has pulled off some blockbusters in recent years.
While the name, itself, would not be a blockbuster, the Blues should take some interest in Yanni Gourde of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Gourde is not expressly available, but Tampa will have to jettison some players this offseason to get back under the cap.
Gourde could be an interesting acquisition for the Blues, should they kick the tires on that kind of deal. Two things factor in, beyond the player, and that’s price and which Gourde they get.
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The fortunate thing for the Blues is that Tampa is not in a position of strength as to what they can demand in return. They’re not going to trade their players for nothing, but they can’t really be adding salary either.
So, for someone like Gourde, you may only need to part with a draft pick and maybe a middling prospect that you’re still unsure of. Tampa might take an interest in that since they have had great success developing players in recent years.
The Blues could throw in an RFA if they really had to sweeten the deal. If you do that before the expansion draft, Tampa could turn around and trade the restricted free agent to Seattle or let Seattle pick the RFA if necessary.
As far as what the Blues would be acquiring, salary wise, Gourde has four years left on his contract with a cap hit of $5.16 million. That’s about an average contract in today’s NHL, but it also leads into the second issue with acquiring him.
$5.17 (rouding up those extra 6’s on the end of his contract) million is either a good deal or slightly expensive, depending on what Gourde offers. The problem is, we don’t really know.
At 29, Gourde is at the age where you shouldn’t expect a ton more development from a player. However, he has had the bad luck of almost half his career being played under the odd circumstances of the pandemic.
In his first, full NHL season, Gourde hit the ground running, scoring 25 goals and 64 points. He took a step back in 2018-19, with 48 points, but the goals were still there with 22.
20-plus goals is worth the salary he’s getting, which is why Tampa gave it to him. 2019-20 is what scares you.
Gourde regressed with a season of 10 goals and 30 points in 70 games. That’s not worth over $5 million and, even in a slightly shortened season, you’d expect around 15 goals in 70 games.
Some of that can be attributed to ice time taken away though. Gourde’s average minutes were cut by almost two minutes.
When his ice time hit a career high of over 17 minutes in 2021, he had a bounce-back year. He had 17 goals and 36 points in 56 games, putting him on pace for 24 goals and 52 points in a full season.
The Blues need to add goals, not just replace them. Gourde is a good enough defensive player that you could argue bringing him in and letting Schwartz go is almost a wash, but goals don’t grow on trees and even if you swap like for like every time, the Blues need more.
If you trade out an RFA like Zach Sanford or even Ivan Barbashev – not saying they should trade Barby, but as an example – you create a spot for both Gourde and potentially Klim Kostin. Both of those additions should definitely improve your offense.
Of course, this all boils down to what Tampa is willing to do. They have to part with players and they can’t really take on much NHL salary in return. Is Gourde someone they’re willing to part with?
He’s a good playoff performer, which is something the Blues need, scoring 16 career playoff goals in 69 games. 13 of those goals came in the last two playoff runs for Tampa.
If Gourde is available, Armstrong needs to at least put in a phone call. If nothing else, you can’t beat the playoff experience he’s gained the last two seasons.