As the NHL trade deadline inches ever closer, fans everywhere start dreaming of who might be acquired and, possibly, help their team take that last step to a Stanley Cup championship. However, given recent history, if we believe the St. Louis Blues to be contenders, a big move would be unlikely.
That does not mean the team will not make any moves. Doug Armstrong is one of the best and most shrewd general managers in the league.
His only fault is sometimes giving too much money or too many years to guys that are already on his roster. In terms of the trades he’s made, Armstrong has fleeced more of his compatriots than almost any GM in Blues history.
If he thinks this team needs a shakeup at the deadline, or close to it, then he’ll figure something out. Fans expecting some big, earth-shattering trade are likely to be very disappointed once the trade deadline comes and goes.
Rumors are picking up steam with some heavy names in them. Guys like Claude Giroux, Jakob Chychrun, Zdeno Chara, Matthew Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot or Ben Chiarot have all been linked to St. Louis at one point or another.
In terms of name value and talent, there is little reason to not want any of those guys. They would all bring something to the Blues.
Giroux brings some scoring punch and would make the forwards take more responsibility on the defensive end again. Tkachuck, like his father, is a power forward but has even more stick handling ability.
Chychrun, Chara, Chabot and Chiarot would all fill a hole St. Louis has on the blue line. St. Louis needs a little toughness and size back there and those names fit that bill.
If we look to recent history, none of it is very likely. Those would all be pretty big deals and, despite what we all like to think, Cup winners rarely need to fill that big a hole at the trade deadline.
Just look back at the last handful of champions. The 2020 version of Tampa Bay added Barclay Goodrow.
He had a fine playoff run, but he was a bottom-six addition making under $1 million at the time. The 2021 version added David Savard. Savard is a solid defender, but he wasn’t a needle mover as far as getting the fans excited.
In 2019, the Blues picked up Michael Del Zotto. The only reason they did that was because they had some injury problems on the back side. Del Zotto did not play in the playoffs.
The 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins added Mark Steit and Ron Hainsey. Street was at the end of his career and Hainsey was a good add, but also a rental.
There are some decent names in there, but none of them went down as blockbuster deals. Too many fans, including Blues fans, expect fireworks when the trade deadline comes around.
If we believe the Blues to be contenders, then making a big shakeup would actually not be beneficial. Champions supplement their team at the deadline, they don’t fix glaring issues or make huge changes.
Ron Caron used to do that. He would make big splashes, sometimes trading three or more players to acquire two or three guys. Even if you argue that the names he brought in were good, the upheaval to the locker room is often too much to overcome.
If you’re going to make a bigger deal, it likely needs to be done early in the season or by January. Anything shorter than that and it’s hard to get them acclimated to a new system, a new city and new teammates – not impossible, but hard.
On top of all that, the Blues just don’t have a lot of ability to make a move without getting rid of a big piece. There just isn’t the financial flexibility.
St. Louis currently has just over $22,000 in cap space. They only have that much because they have Scott Perunovich on LTIR for conditioning, so some of that disappears when/if he returns.
Giroux has a cap hit of over $8 million. Chychrun has a cap hit of $4.6 million. Tkachuk has a cap hit of $7 million and needs a new contract this offseason, likely wanting a raise.
Chabot’s cap hit is $8 million and Chiarot takes up $3.5 million. Chara is the most affordable at a cap hit of just $750,000.
If the Blues have no cap space, to afford Giroux, even if Philadelphia retains some money, the Blues are trading at least two current players away. The same is likely true of Tkachuk.
Tkachuck and Chabot are probably costing you NHL guys, prospects and draft picks. No offense to those guys, but it’s very hard to live up to that cost.
Some will be quick to say you include Vladimir Tarasenko in one of those trades. The Blues have won based on their offense more than any recent year, so why does it make sense to trade away a guy who is still close to on pace for 30 goals?
Pick up Giroux and you’re swapping goals for goals, adding little other than some grit. Pick up a defender and you’re gutting part of your offense for a position that may or may not impact a game, night to night.
It just doesn’t make sense and feels unlikely. Even a person close to the situation like Darren Pang mentioned the Giroux rumor makes no sense.
Perhaps Armstrong will pull a rabbit out of his hat and surprise us all. Maybe he’ll buck the trend, add a big piece and have his team make a deep run or win it all.
Recent history suggests not. Either the Blues make a splash and it doesn’t pay off until next season, they make a splash and they crash out of the playoffs early to our disappointment, or they make a small addition and go on a deep run based on their current chemistry.
At the deadline, like in life, anything is possible. Just don’t expect too much because this general manager thinks highly of his team’s makeup. Champions rarely make big deals this late in the game and Armstrong is hoping the Blues can be champions.