The St. Louis Blues have begun training camp and are already starting to play preseason games. The offseason felt pretty long with the lack of action the Blues were involved in during the summer months.
Go figure, now that the season is almost upon us, the rumor mill churns up again. Some rumors are kind of fun to ponder, but one popped up on social media that needs to stay a rumor.
The one that skimmed across the Facebook feed a couple weeks ago was an unsubstantiated rumor involving Colton Parayko. In this rumor, Parayko would head to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Blues would receive William Nylander. There were other bits and pieces involved, but that was the most interesting part of the possible trade.
On the surface, why would the Blues not be interested? Nylander is coming off a career high of 40 goals and 87 points.
For context, Jordan Kyrou led the Blues in 2022-23 with 37 goals and 73 points. Pavel Buchnevich had 26 goals and 67 points.
If you only go by the stat pages, the Blues would also be getting a center who can put up those points. That’s what every team dreams of.
Think on it though. Why would the Maple Leafs actually be willing to part with an 80-plus point center in exchange for a defender that has not proven himself as a true, top-pair defender? There’s more to this than meets the eye.
Firstly, Nylander isn’t really a center any longer. He could shift back to the middle if the Blues asked him, but he has not taken more than 65 faceoffs in a season since 2019-20.
We all get dazzled by the point totals, but how much would he actually fit with the Blues system? Mike Hoffman was a heck of a goal scorer, but he never really matched the way the Blues wanted to play and it showed.
Nylander has more overall talent than Hoffman, but it’s the same drawback. Most fans want to see a return to the style that won the 2019 Stanley Cup, but Nylander had a toal of 18 hits in 2022-23.
Logan Brown had 22 hits in 30 games with the Blues. Nobody thinks of Kyrou as a physical force and he had 14 and Robert Thomas had 15.
Those last two examples show that you don’t ask as much physicality from your top-line players, but you’d like to see him not shy away from physicality too. Nylander is also one of those players where you have to ask if he can carry the scoring load, like he would need to do in St. Louis, or was he a product of a wide open offense in Toronto.
On top of everything else, Nylander is in the final year of a $45 million contract that has a cap hit of just under $7 million this season. Even if his numbers stagnate, or take a miniscule drop, he’s going to want a raise.
The Blues are already up against the cap now. Unless the salary cap takes a sizeable jump for 2024-25, could St. Louis even afford a player like that?
St. Louis has long been a team that needed to be based on the whole, not the sum of the parts. In sports terms, that means they’ve relied on having better bottom six players than other teams since they have not had as many stars.
You start paying guys $8-9 million per season, you’ve got less to give the rest of your team. That puts more pressure on those top guys to perform.
Nylander is one of those guys that clearly has the skill. I ask again, is he capable of being THE guy?
He would be surrounded by guys like Thomas and Kyrou and led by Brayden Schenn. However, pay someone that much money, you’re expecting them to lead you on the stat sheet.
All of this does not even account for Parayko. Fans have severely soured on him and with good reason, given his decline ever since Jay Bouwmeester was forced into retirement for his health.
However, Chris Kerber made a great point back at the 2023 trade deadline. He said that as soon as you trade away a player like Parayko, you’re looking for that same kind of player.
By that he means you’re looking for another defender that is 6’6, can skate very well, has reach and can get you roughly 30 points a season. Those don’t grow on trees.
Trade away Parayko right before the season and what do you honestly expect from your defense? As it stands now, with Parayko, you’re still hoping everyone stays healthy, plays up to potential and plays much better than in 2022-23 just to have a chance at the playoffs.
If your defense is running on an edge that is razor thin, how can you deplete their ranks now? Who replaces Parayko?
We would all love for Scott Perunovich to get a better look, but he has never projected to be a defensive, shutdown player. Are you going to ask him to play against the Connor McDavids of the world?
It would be nice to have a guy that can put up 80-plus points. It would be nice to not have to worry whether Parayko would be as bad as the last couple seasons or if he could rebound.
However, the Blues have no replacement on the back end now or in the near future. You’re likely going to have to overpay Nylander to keep him, so you’re giving up your defender for what could possibly be a rental.
No, thank you. If the Blues were one player away from being a Stanley Cup contender than maybe. Maybe.
Even the most optimistic of us will say that the Blues are trying to challenge for a playoff spot, not a championship. Decimate an already weak defense in the hopes of getting a few more goals for, potentially, only one season and that’s a recipe for disaster.
Leave this one on the rumor pile where it belongs.