What tough decisions loom large today for Doug Armstrong?
The trade deadline – or Hockey Christmas, as some fans call it – is stressful. It’s tough on the players, it’s tough on fans, and it’s even more difficult for most general managers. Some teams are clear cut sellers – the Sabres come to mind, and the Devils already traded Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to the New York Islanders.
With the salary cap expected to hold steady next season at $81.5 million, it’s going to require jujitsu for some teams to afford to be buyers. Purchases won’t just be made up of draft picks; many of them will have to clear current roster cap space. The Blues are one of those teams. New arrivals are going to necessitate a bon voyage party for a player or two.
The Blues find themselves in the unenviable limbo of teetering on the edge of a playoff spot. Do you sell and risk ruining team chemistry that has finally returned after a seven game losing streak saw the team slide out of the playoff picture? Do you buy and bring in a new guy who has to get acclimated while still sending core players packing?
Do you take a season long low risk, high reward gamble who is kind of working out and sell Mike Hoffman off for whatever you can get, clearing cap space for signing pending UFA Jaden Schwartz?
Or do you take the huge step of dealing Schwartz for picks and prospects, hoping you can re-sign him in the off-season a la Kieth Tkachuk?
It’s a mess.
Not every trade deadline has to be huge. There have been many in the past where Doug Armstrong has made simple organizational depth tweaks, or added players like Marco Scandella out of emergency needs, and let everything else lie.
TSN seems to think that the Blues could have their cake and eat it too, entertaining talks about Hoffman and Tyler Bozak. With Robert Thomas now day-to-day, dealing Bozak would seem to be a risky move that could unnecessarily challenge the Blues depth. Not dealing Bozak means that the Blues might be out a third round pick. Circumstances change, and it looks like circumstances have changed in favor of Bozak hanging around for the rest of the season.
Trading Schwartz, who TSN mentions is more than likely not available due to the Blues’ proximity to playoff seeding, would be waiving the white flag on the season. Schwartz just returned from injury, and has been a catalyst in the Blues’ last three wins. Traditionally, when he’s been out of commission, the Blues slump, and can slump hard. With the Blues so close to finishing in the top four in the West Division, shooting themselves in the foot doesn’t seem like a move Armstrong would make. The team this year is much different than the squad in 2018 that saw Paul Stastny get dealt to Winnipeg. It’d be surprising if Armstrong made a similar play.