The St. Louis Blues trade Kevin Hayes to the Pittsburgh Penguins. What does this open up for the Blues?

As a part of a flurry of trades during the 2024 NHL draft, the St. Louis Blues sent veteran forward Kevin Hayes to the Pittsburgh Penguins. What can we learn from the move, and what could it signal?
Kevin Hayes in a game against the Boston Bruins
Kevin Hayes in a game against the Boston Bruins / Richard T Gagnon/GettyImages

Amidst the chaos that was the 2024 NHL draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired veteran center/right winger Kevin Hayes from the St. Louis Blues. With him went the Blues 2025 2nd round pick.

The return for Kevin Hayes and a future 2nd is yet to be decided/announced. Right now the only return for St. Louis is "future considerations."

So that's it?

While I'm not shocked that the Blues moved Hayes this offseason, the nature of this trade is perplexing, to say the least.

For something to be announced during draft day but have no ramifications on that draft is an out-of-the ordinary move, for both clubs.

Hayes had an okay season for the Blues last year, tallying 29 points in 79 games and serving valuable ice time as a center for most of those games. He put up a perfectly average 0 plus/minus; the only thing that stands out about Hayes' only season as a Blue is his very low penalty minutes, only serving 6 minor penalties all year.

That being said, he had a role to play at a position of need, so presumably GM Doug Armstrong had an idea of what he wanted in return. Why it has yet to be announced remains a confusing complication to this conundrum.

Hypothesizing what Doug Armstrong asked for in return

What many fans initially assumed was that this was a salary dump. Hayes will cost $3,571,429 against the cap for the Pittsburgh Penguins, as the Philadelphia Flyers are still retaining a portion of his contract.

While this might have been Doug Armstrong's motivation for making this deal, I see this as unlikely. His cap hit is relatively low and does not free up a ton of space. Furthermore, and what I see as the most intriguing part of this deal, the Blues also sent over a future 2nd round pick.

This pick is probably the crux of what Armstrong wants in return, as it's very unlikely it was a necessary addition to move Hayes.

Adding this second round pick into the mix, it is possible that Doug Armstrong is trying to acquire the Penguins first round pick next year. The Penguins have very high aspirations in a very short window, so they have to go all in on acquiring talent and giving up picks to do it.

The wait for the return could be some conditions coming with the future first. Perhaps the Penguins want to protect it if the they miss the playoffs again, or give some other condition that will take more time to hash out. The second round pick going over really sweetens the deal from the Penguins perspective.

If not a pick, the only other option would be a player or a prospect. Both options are probably equally likely for different reasons.

As we learned with this year's draft, the Blues are trying to acquire defensive talent. The Penguins could have a fit in Marcus Petterson, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this year. It is unlikely he will resign with his current club and their team is desperate for offense, so this could be a player-for-player swap. Petterson does have an 8 team no-trade clause, so perhaps that is the holdup.

If it is a prospect, the discussion becomes very interesting. The Penguins have a pretty weak farm system, as they have been trying to go all-in for the remainder of the time they have star forward Sidney Crosby. That being said, there are options that Doug Armstrong and the Blues may have their sights set on.

Owen Pickering is a solid two-way defenseman that is not far from making the NHL. He is 20 years old and has been very consistent through this point of his amateur career. Last year, he had 46 points in 59 games as a left shot defenseman.

My other guess would be one of two very similar forwards, Tristan Broz or Lukas Svejkovsky. Both are aggressive, offensive forwards who really like to hunt down the puck on the forecheck. They are 21 and 22 respectively, so very close to cracking the NHL which fits more to the Blues timeline.

In truth, the return could be any number of these options or something not yet mentioned. Blues fans should be excited about what may come of this under-the-radar move.