Ryan O’Reilly was really wanted by the Toronto Maple Leafs for the playoff push.
When Vladimir Tarasenko was traded, I would say few fans or media, or really anybody in the league, were surprised. After all, he had requested a trade going back 2 years, and his contract is up after this season. So the Blues were finally going to find a trade partner for him, and they did with the Rangers.
But beyond that, it was iffy. I, and many others, thought there was a good chance the Blues A) did nothing else; and B) maybe went on a little run to put themselves in the playoff conversation again. Ryan O’Reilly was a model Blue, a penultimate player to don the Note, a vital piece to the Cup Run of 2019. And he wanted to stay with the Blues.
And the Blues went on a 3-0 run after the Tarasenko trade, but the night of February 17th, Doug Armstrong pulled the trigger. O’Reilly, and Noel Acciari, went to the Maple Leafs for a few draft picks and 2 prospects. One of those prospects, Adam Gaudette, isn’t really a prospect, per se, but a depth player who can play in the NHL but hasn’t really established himself as a regular. Look for him to get playing time with the Blues for the last part of the season.
Just like that, the re-tool is a go. There won’t be any playoffs for this year’s version of the Blues. The Cup window is officially closed. The Blues have sent out 4 players with expiring contracts, getting back a number of draft picks and prospects. And there probably is more to come.
The likely next trade candidate is winger Ivan Barbashev. The past two seasons, he really established himself as a middle 6 forward with scoring ability. He is a nice complementary player that would help any contending team. I’m sure Armstrong is asking for a first round pick, and should he get it, there will be no doubt that Barbashev will be on his way out. In that scenario, the Blues would have 4 first-round draft picks this year.
I don’t have to tell you how remarkable that would be. They could trade one or two of those, and still be able to stock their prospect pipeline. That pipeline is already in decent shape with the recent picks of Bolduc and Snuggerud showing really nice potential in their leagues.
The Blues never “put it all together.” They didn’t shake off the inconsistencies and pull ahead in the win column, like I thought they would. And when that happens, management has to either fire the coach or shake up the team. The front office was in the position to do the latter because of how many pending free agents there were (and still are).
It could be a rough couple of months as the Blues play out the string. There’s no cavalry riding to the rescue this year. It’s all about giving young players like Toropchenko, Alexandrov, and Tucker more playing time to see what they can do.
Until next year in St. Louis.