The extent to which the St. Louis Blues need to reshape the team for 2023-24 is a strong debate. Regardless which side you fall on, the fact of the matter is the Blues are in sell mode to finish off 2022-23.
They’ve already traded Vladimir Tarasenko. As of writing this, no other deals have been made, but most think Ryan O’Reilly, Ivan Barbashev and, perhaps, Noel Acciari are on the block as well.
A name nobody anticipated has entered the rumor mill. Though the rumors are very vague, Colton Parayko’s now a part of that list.
Before we go into things, all of this should be taken with a very large grain of salt. The phrase being used in the rumor is that several teams have been “aggressively poking” about Parayko.
Even if true, all that means is they’re calling Doug Armstrong to see what he would want to make that kind of deal. We don’t know how serious these teams are or if they’re asking outlandish things like eating a portion of Parayko’s salary. I know several Blues fans are hot to get 55 out of town, but having dead cap space for as long as Parayko’s contract runs would defeat the purpose.
For the sake of argument, let’s take these rumors as something substantial, whether it is or not. You cannot hope to trade Parayko in a vacuum without taking into account what would be needed in 2023-24 and beyond.
On social media, I had a discussion about this trade and the argument against mine was that I was in the wrong to assume Parayko is a number one defender. The Blues wouldn’t need a big return in the trade because Parayko was not a number one and anyone could replace him.
First off, that’s wrong. Second, even if he is as bad as these people say, why would you want to replace him with someone on the same level as you see him? Why would you not want an upgrade?
Beyond that argument, the reality is that the Blues see him as a number one defenseman. He averages the second most minutes of anyone on St. Louis.
It should be said that Justin Faulk does have the most minutes, on average. However, the Blues still see Parayko as a 1B right-handed defenseman, at worst.
So, if by some witchcraft only known to Army, the Blues managed to trade away the Parayko contract, they still need a number one right-handed defender. At the very least, they would need a solid, defending second-pair d-man if you think Faulk can handle the top spot.
Here’s a list of some of the top upcoming free agents on the blue line, that are listed as RD:
There are more, but the point is to ask yourself who on that list is truly a top-pair defender and improves the Blues?
Klingberg might be Parayko 2.0. The Dallas Stars somehow got better without him, his offense is dwindling and he’s not a physical presence. The Blues have enough offensive d-men.
We’ve gone down the Johnson path before. He will be 35 by the time next season starts.
Dumba? No. Just no.
Gostisbehere might be a fit if you go the route where Faulk is your number one. Even then, you’re getting smaller, even less physical and Gostisbehere can be a great shot blocker, but alternates years where he doesn’t do it enough.
Severson could be a maybe. He’s probably going to want Parayko money, or something close, so you better be sure if he’s an upgrade.
Shattenkirk is too old. The others were just names on the list.
Even if you include some lefties like Vince Dunn, it’s not much to go on. Dunn is having a career year in Seattle, but offensive production was never the drawback for him. He was a turnover machine and still is.
Essentially, Armstrong would either need a top-pair defender in the trade that involved Parayko – extremely unlikely – or, would have to make a blockbuster deal after Parayko was dealt. That’s not impossible, but it’s not easy to trade one guy out and find a replacement all in the same offseason.
Who are the Blues going to acquire that can be a top-pair defender. I can tell you now, it won’t be Jakob Chychrun.
He was originally rumored to be heading to Los Angeles, but that deal may have fallen apart. Regardless, the Coyotes are simply asking too much in draft capital and prospects for what the Blues could afford.
None of this is to say that the Blues should not make that deal if they could. As much promise as he had, Parayko has taken a nose dive as far as the eye test. His numbers are not horrendous, but his decision making and skating ability just are not what we saw just a couple years ago.
If you could acquire someone that can be a number one defender, who is not locked up for quite as long, perhaps that would be better for St. Louis. However, the overall point is that’s not easily found.
You cannot just trade Parayko away and figure whoever is in the system can just step up. That’s a terrible mistake. The Blues have tried that and, even when they’ve been competitive, they still needed defense, which is why they traded for Nick Leddy in the first place.
You need someone on the right side you can count on for 22-plus minutes a night and won’t crumble under that pressure. Armstrong has worked plenty of magic, but that might be more than even he could pull off.