Time to Retool

The Blues are presented with a rare opportunity to peel off expiring contracts for future assets.

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Ivan Barbashev may be dealt by the trade deadline, along with a few others.

The St. Louis Blues are finally showing us what kind of team they are. And that’s a team that’s not playoff bound and that doesn’t play with conviction or cohesion.

That reality, now apparent for all to see, will set the direction of Doug Armstrong’s efforts as he approaches the NHL Trade Deadline. 2022-23 is a lost season; it’s time to regroup and think about next year.

The most obvious candidates to be moved are the top forwards on expiring contracts: Center Ryan O’Reilly and winger Vladimir Tarasenko. Together they make up $15 million in cap space. Although O’Reilly is on injured reserve, by all accounts he is expected to return this season. Both players would be appealing to contending teams in need of veteran scoring help.

Tarasenko, if you’ll recall, asked for a trade a couple years ago. Whatever happened, a trade did not occur then, but it’s likely to now. The reason is that the Trade Deadline is the last chance for the Blues to get assets for him, instead of letting him walk in free agency.

The Blues may have interest in brining back O’Reilly. He has been a heart-and-soul player for the Blues for a few years now. He was so important in their 2019 Stanley Cup Championship year. When he was acquired, he stepped in as the No. 1 center the Blues had desperately needed for a long time (since when Doug Weight held the title). But the Blues have a salary cap to manage, and it may not be feasible to bring back their captain, given their other areas of need.

The Blues will hopefully not be shy about asking for a very high price in exchange for O’Reilly and Tarasenko. That price should start with a 1st round draft pick (or equivalent prospect), and a roster player. They should be looking to build for the future but maybe also help the present. Getting a first round pick back for both players would give the team 3 first-round picks in this year’s draft. The development cupboard is in a pretty good place, but add 3 more picks to that cupboard in a few months? The Blues could have a pipeline that’s the envy of the league.

At the very least, it’s likely the Blues will get a 2nd round pick as part of any deal. That will help too because they don’t have a 2nd round pick of their own this year.

It’s not just O’Reilly and Tarasenko that could be traded at the deadline. Noel Acciari is on a 1-year deal and he brings the kind of skills and versatility that teams want as they gear up for the playoffs. He could fetch a mid-round or low draft pick. Winger Ivan Barbashev, a fan favorite, is another candidate to be traded. His offense has improved by leaps and bounds in the past couple years, and he has a very reasonable salary of less than $3 million.

Trading all four players would open up a lot of ice time for youngsters to gain some NHL experience. Guys like Alexandrov, Toropchenko and Logan Brown would need to step up and play a larger role. They already have been due to the Tarasenko/O’Reilly/Buchnevich injuries.

The future still looks good for the Blues. But this is just not their year. It’s time for the core to retool around the next generation guys like Thomas, Kyrou and Buchnevich.

The Blues are almost certain to look much different after the Trade Deadline than they do today.

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