Did the St. Louis Blues let Chicago and Utah lap them over the past week?

The Utah Hockey Club and the Chicago Blackhawks were active in trades and free agency, respectively, so are the St. Louis Blues in danger of falling behind?
Chicago Blackhawks v St Louis Blues
Chicago Blackhawks v St Louis Blues / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages

It’s now been over 24 hours since NHL free agency began, and while most of the biggest names went off the board within the first hour, there were still some sound players remaining. But unfortunately for the St. Louis Blues, general manager Doug Armstrong never seemed interested in adding big-name talent to a team that didn’t finish too far out of a playoff spot in 2023-24.

As I wrote this piece, there were very few names worth pursuing, and only former St. Louis Blue Vladimir Tarasenko stood out. But at this point, there is no one else available who will improve this hockey team. Compare the Blues experience over the past week to the Utah Hockey Club who, despite making just two major signings (Ian Cole and Kevin Stenlund), they did pull off some creative trades. 

Mikhail Sergachev may be the most notable name, but Utah also acquired John Marino, who has seen success in this league. They join a team that also has a good core group of forwards, including Clayton Keller, Lawson Crouse, and Logan Cooley, among others, and it makes you wonder just how far up the rung Utah will climb this season. 

And remember, they surprised a lot of fans during the first half of 2023-24 in what became their final season in Arizona. It’s clear that general manager Bill Armstrong is looking to make a good first impression on his new fanbase in Salt Lake City, and why wouldn’t he? 

But the Chicago Blackhawks may have been the biggest movers in the Central Division following what was an outstanding draft and subsequent Day 1, or Hour 1, really, of free agency. 

St. Louis Blues could be in danger of falling behind Utah, Chicago

The Blackhawks may have lost a few pending free agents, but let’s be real - Chicago was so bad last season that losing a few players may have turned into a gain for this (still) young hockey team. But you can’t help but like what they did following the signings of Tyler Bertuzzi and Teuvo Teravainen. 

Meanwhile, T.J. Brodie, Pat Maroon, Laurent Brossoit, Craig Smith, and Alec Martinez are all older players in this league who will be perfect stopgaps while some of the more intriguing prospects develop in the lower leagues.. 

All of that said, where does that leave the Blues? Honestly, if the worst happens and Chicago, Utah, and even Minnesota, for that matter, threaten to surpass St. Louis this season, it will be temporary pain. For one, Dalibor Dvorsky and Jimmy Snuggerud are closer to making their respective NHL debuts, and you can count on Zachary Bolduc and Zach Dean permanently joining a forward group that keeps getting younger. 

No, nobody lapped the Blues, even if they may have passed them

That said, one bad year or one down season in which teams like Utah and Chicago could lap the Blues in a worst-case scenario since they barely did anything noteworthy in free agency unless you want to count bringing back Kasperi Kapanen, shouldn’t be such a burden on the fans. 

If all goes to plan, the Blues will be ready to win at some point during the latter half of the decade and fans will look back at the 2024 offseason and be glad Doug Armstrong didn’t make any drastic moves. 

So let teams like Utah, Chicago, and maybe even the Minnesota Wild pull ahead of the Blues - temporarily - because this is an organization with some remarkable prospects who will be full-time NHL players sooner rather than later.

That said, the Blues didn’t get lapped, but don’t be surprised if they take the dreaded “step back” in 2024-25, only to start catapulting back toward to the top shortly thereafter. But if you want more reassuring news, the Blues did ink scorer Pavel Buchnevich to a six-year deal, and they also made a couple of interesting trades shortly before this article was published, so there is still a chance the 2024-25 season will be better than it may otherwise look.