Not a ton available
As previously mentioned, hockey trades aren’t that common any longer. For those that don’t know, hockey trades are teams that swap NHL players of semi-equal value.
The value changes based on team needs and fans’ personal views. You’re never going to get Michael Jordan traded for Lebron James kind of thing, but you could get a second-line winger traded for a 1b or second pair defender.
Those are pretty rare now. Usually teams are looking to add salary, if they’re too close to the cap floor; dump salary for the offseason; or, in rare cases, add a player for a playoff push without giving up the farm.
The reason I bring this up is due to the talent level the current Blues still have. Strip away the arguments about locker room culture or buying into what the coach is selling – they all still have talent.
Tarasenko, when healthy, is still a 30-goal scorer. O’Reilly can still get you 50-plus points.
As much as we all see the mistakes he’s making, Colton Parayko is still a top-four defenseman on almost any team. The offense we saw last year might have been a mirage, but Ivan Barbashev is still a physical player, whose hitting power would not be easily replaced.
Name whoever you think needs to be gone from the team. The reality is that, though they are definitely underperforming in 2022-23, the Blues don’t have an automatic replacement in the system.
That means they need to find a replacement. You’re almost certain to not find that replacement in a trade this spring, so you’d need to find one in the summer when free agency hits.
That’s a double-edged sword of negativity from the Blues perspective. First, St. Louis has never really dabbled in free agency much. They’ve made most of their major outside acquisitions through trades. That’s always a possibility since summer trades are less pressure filled than at the deadline.
Compounding the free agent problem is that there really isn’t much out there. There’s quality players, but you need to replace production, not just skill.
You choose to hate Tarasenko because he doesn’t do this, that or the other like some old-school hockey player then fine. You still need 25-30 goals coming in to replace that.
Of the pending free agents, there are only three of those. David Pastrnak, Bo Horvat and Timo Meier are the only ones with 30 goals, or close, by the end of January. There’s a couple other names that might get close by the end of the season, but they’re all in their 30’s already.
Pastrnak is either going to be too expensive for the Blues or never hit free agency. Anything is possible in today’s sports landscape, but it’s hard to imagine Pasta not staying in Boston.
Meier is expected to be traded out of San Jose. IF that happens, it’s rumored to be a sign and trade, meaning he won’t even hit free agency.
I’m not personally sold on Horvat. The scoring is fine, but he doesn’t get near enough assists if he’s actually a center. Regardless, the Blues would not be the only one in on him if he hit free agency, meaning the price goes up when it becomes a bidding war.
After those? It’s nothing you’re going to build a team around.
Patrice Bergeron – too old and not leaving Boston, if he continues playing.
Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews – Older than anyone on the Blues, declining production and likely to want more money than they’re worth.
John Klingberg – another offensive defenseman. The Blues have too many.
Sean Monahan – hit a wall after the covid season and has yet to return to form.
Dylan Larkin – definite maybe. Blues style player and still in his mid-20’s.
Tyler Bertuzzi – upside is great, but St. Louis has horrible injury luck and he’s been hurt two of the last three seasons.
Dylan Strome – ehhh…maybe.
Go through that list linked above. There’s names that are not bad at all.
I’d be fine if the Blues picked up Luke Schenn for some grit. However, the problem is not with what they’ve done in their careers but what they can do.
Who on that list is realistic and improves the team as more than a body? Schenn is fine, but that’s someone to pair with Robert Bortuzzo, not slip into your top four or replace Parayko.
Many of the free agents are 30 or over. Again, that’s fine for your middle six, but you need someone capable of scoring plenty of goals if you’re giving up on Tarasenko.
You need to replenish your center depth if you’re trading away O’Reilly. Few on that list provide the numbers O’Reilly normally has and the defensive ability he normally brings.
There are always names you’d be interested in for the Blues in free agency. There really aren’t upgrades.
At best, there might be lateral moves. Those players are few, meaning more teams will be in on them, meaning the Blues likely miss out.
So, while trading guys away sounds great, you still need replacements. The prospects aren’t ready enough and there just isn’t much out there to pick up for nothing in the summer.