The draft has come and gone, and the Blues remain largely unchanged as far as what we were expecting to see in the opening lineup come October. Aside from resigning Nikita Soshnikov, who was expected to leave North America to continue his playing career back home in the KHL, it’s pretty safe to say we won’t see any of the current offseason acquisitions make any contribution to the success of the Blues in the 2018-2019 league year.
To the surprise of many, in a draft where a lot of fans and analysts alike had the Blues pegged as a team that would be doing everything in their power to trade the pick for a current NHLer to boost the squad back into playoff contention. Instead, at around 9:15 Friday night, Gary Bettman came to the stage to announce a trade between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the St. Louis Blues which saw a swap of the Leafs 25th for the Blues 29th, and 76th pick. This resulted in us being able to nab Dominik Bokk. The reviews on Bokk are mixed. Touted as “the next Deutschland Dangler (Leon Draisaitl), some believe the Blues may have stolen an incredibly high ceiling pick, while others believe he’s raw and unproven. Only time will tell what Bokk’s true hockey future holds, although it will probably be 3-4 years before we find out.
Unlike last year, which saw the Blues make two high profile trades on night 1, the most controversial part of this draft is what the Blues didn’t do; Trade for a center. While this doesn’t mean won’t see one coming soon, it did reasonably put some doubt in the minds of a lot of fans.
Let’s take a look at some of the options pre-draft, and what the situation looks like moving forward.
John Tavares: John Tavares was scheduled to decide whether he would field opposing offers on Saturday, and he stuck to that word. Unfortunately his decision was to meet with 5 teams, none of which are based out of St. Louis, MO. The trend of high profile UFAs preferring big markets continues (sigh).
Ilya Kovalchuk: Kovalchuk committed to a 3 year deal with the LA Kings, with an AAV (average annual value) of $6.25 million. In my opinion, we may have dodged a bullet with this one, as Kovalchuk is currently 35, and will turn 36 during the first round of the playoffs next year. Kovalchuk was always looked at as a short term piece for us, and I can’t see him being near as effective in his 3rd year with the Kings anyways.
Artemi Panarin: Surprise surprise, Panarin, much like Kovalchuk and Tavares, seems enticed by the bright lights of a large market. Apparently not even his best pal Vladimir Tarasenko is enough to even consider coming to St. Louis. It’s interesting to me how athletes seem to look down on cities like STL, even though when big names do come here, they almost always retire and become locals around the area. It’s too bad more players don’t give the 314 a decent chance.
Ryan O’Reily: Here’s where things get a little more optimistic. Not because we’ve made an acquisition, but simply because the possibility of a trade still remains. At this point, O’Reily is the premier option for us, and Buffalo certainly seems like a worthwhile trade partner. Boasting near 60 points per season consistently, and never registering over 18 penalty minutes, O’Reily is the kind of guy who could be a great long term replacement at the center position, and would allow Schenn and Schwartz to make our 2nd line just as deadly as the first. The complication with O’Reily is the structure of his contract. It’s heavily weighted in bonuses meaning that he is owed $6.5 million on July 1, 2018. Years following are weighted the same, although the amount does differ. What this means is that, if O’Reily comes here and doesn’t pan out the way we expect, there’s not a lot we can do outside of trading him elsewhere to alleviate his cap hit…but again, that’s assuming he were not to pan out, which is fairly unlikely given his consistency.
Jeff Skinner: Skinner is an interesting possibility. Admittedly I thought him to be much older than just 26 years old. He’s a bit undersized, but his play style wouldn’t make you think so. A consistent 30 goal scorer whose only real problem was some concussion issues early on in his career, Skinner could be exactly what the Blues are looking for in a guy to center their top line. Depending on the type of trade package they’d send Carolina for him, it’s not out of the question to think that he could be acquired along with another top level asset. Skinner is set to be a UFA after this coming season. Skinner does have a no-trade clause that would need to be waived to complete this trade.
Max Pacioretty: Paciorety was all but a Shark over the weekend after rumors ran rampant of a trade between the Habs and San Jose for the 29 year old left winger. It turned out to be nothing but rumors, and in an odd twist, Pacioretty suddenly switched agents as well. While he may not be the ideal fit (another left handed winger), he would certainly be a welcomed upgrade to a team whose talent at the Center position rapidly declines after Brayden Schenn. Another thing to add about Max is his leadership skills. While the Habs have not been good for years, Pacioretty has served as a pretty well respected captain, so his locker room leadership may pay dividends for the team as a whole as well.
Certainly there are more options that the Blues could be considering over the next few weeks. As free agency creeps closer, the trading block should naturally heat up more and more. Look for the Blues to keep looking for suitable options in the near future, and don’t be surprised to hear of a trade featuring 3 or 4 players some time this week.
As always, thanks for reading,
Let’s Go Blues