The St. Louis Blues find themselves in an odd place as the 2023 offseason begins. They offloaded all their pending unrestricted free agents during the season and are now trying to navigate unfriendly waters.
The Blues aren’t without options. They have a little over $7 million available in cap space and they have nine draft picks in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.
Unfortunately, that’s a lot of unknown too. $7 million is great until you have to use that on only four or five players. Nine draft picks sounds great, but if you actually used all of them on draftees, you might be waiting years to see them in the NHL and that’s if they aren’t busts.
It’s a lot of unknowns. Free agency is a more sure bet, but never completely sure and, even then, you’re limited with who you can sign.
However, we can have hope. Interestingly, sending a player away might actually have given the Blues hope.
When the Blues traded Ivan Barbashev, it felt like a final goodbye. Even though he should be the most reasonably priced former Blues player on the market, he felt the least likely to come back.
A solid final portion of the season with Vegas, coupled with seven goals and 18 points along with a Stanley Cup priced him out of the Blues range. Barbashev is likely to become a $4-5 million dollar player.
Yet, this article is not a discussion about whether he’s worth that. The truth is some team is going to pay it.
This article is to discuss why trading him can actually help the team in free agency.
The reality is that trading a player is rarely a positive thing. It can hurt feelings and cause rifts. However, what Doug Armstrong did for Barbashev was the complete opposite.
Barbashev was not approaching his career numbers seen in 2021-22, but he was having a decent season. In 59 games with the Blues, he put up 10 goals and 29 points.
If you really open up the bidding, Barbashev could have fetched a better haul than he did. Instead, the Blues settled on a prospect in Zach Dean.
What helps the Blues is that Armstrong went out of his way to trade Barbashev to a winner. Army respected the game, the attitude and the services rendered to the team so much that he sought out a team capable of winning the Cup to trade Barbashev to.
When you’re only looking for teams that can win it, you’re making your trade pool of teams smaller. That hurt the Blues in that deal alone, but for free agency, players are going to know what happened.
If a pending free agent is a little worried about the Blues, but knows they’ll do right by him, he’s more likely to sign here. A player might actually be more likely to take a prove-it deal for less money, knowing that Armstrong will look to send him to a winner for assets if the Blues end up missing the playoffs for a second season in row.
Of course, none of this means much if Armstrong cannot free up a little more cap space. You’re not going to get much of an impact player for only $1-2 million.
Nevertheless, word will go around about Armstrong helping out Barbashev and it working out. Armstrong also sent Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly to preferred destinations that had a chance to win as well.
Time will tell what moves Armstrong will be able to make. In this case, trading a player away and doing right by them and their career can only help the Blues.