Sandford and Sunny

Embed from Getty Images

Zach Sanford is a key contributor this season, as expected.-

As of today, March 5th, the St. Louis Blues sit at 13-8-2, good for 2nd place in the Honda West Division. The big story of the season is the incredible number of players sidelined by injury. Specifically, the team’s forward corps has been hit hard. But amidst the injuries, two forwards are stepping up their game and showing how valuable they are to the Blues.

Continue reading “Sandford and Sunny”

Odd Man Out?

Embed from Getty Images
Defenseman Vince Dunn may not be long for the Blues roster.

The St. Louis Blues have a nice problem. They have too many defensemen.

You can count 8 guys who can play on any night. They are, in no particular order: Justin Faulk, Robert Bortuzzo, Carl Gunnarsson, Torey Krug, Colton Parayko, Marco Scandella, Niko Mikkola, & Jake Walman. That’s not to mention Mitch Reinke and Scott Perunovich on the taxi squad.

The Blues have plenty of offensively capable defensemen. They can afford to part with Dunn. In fact, I’m going to give some reasons why they should.

Reason 1: His inconsistent play

Dunn made a huge mistake a couple games ago, which led to a back-breaking goal and a subsequent lambasting by Coach Berube. And he was benched for the next game. Dunn has high-level offensive skill, but his state of mind can lead to defensive gaffes. The Blues already lost two defensively solid guys in Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo. They can’t afford to have guys playing sloppy in their own end.

Reason 2: Eliminate distraction in the clubhouse

The trade rumors are swirling. In fact, “The Score” recently put out this article with potential landing spots for Dunn. Such rumors can distract players as they slog through a season. It’s in the best interest of any team to avoid as many distractions as possible.

Reason 3: Clear cap space

Dunn’s cap hit is a modest $1.875 million, but every bit helps. and the Blues are right, tight against the cap (as they usually are). Tarasenko seems likely to return sooner than later (he posted an Instagram pic of his skates), and when he does, his full $7+ million will count against the cap. Dunn should not be difficult to move, at all. He has solid value right now.

Reason 4: Stockpile draft picks

Because the Blues are near the salary cap, it’s unlikely they would ask for a roster player in return. More likely, they would ask a high-round draft pick, either a 1st or 2nd. If the Blues can get a 1st-round pick, they should move immediately. First rounders are all but sure things to play in the NHL, but the further a player falls in the draft, the less likely that becomes. The development system is rather light on scoring forwards, so this could be a great opportunity to snag a high-round pick that they could then turn into an impact forward prospect. Dunn’s contract is only for this year, so the Blues should trade him sooner than later, to maximize his value.

Dunn had a decent game last night against the Ducks, but the Blues may have made up their mind already. They have younger players they need to get a feel for, like Mikkola and Walman, and eventually Perunovich. And with contracts coming up next offseason, they have limited space to determine which players they want to keep long-term.

Trading Dunn soon makes a world of sense.

Free Agency Surprise

The St. Louis Blues have been much more active in Free Agency than most expected.

Embed from Getty Images

Defenseman Torey Krug is the headliner of the Blues’ acquisitions this fall.

It’s been a stunning weekend for the Blues and their fans. In the space of just over 48 hours, Alex Pietrangelo is presumably out the door for good, and two new players have signed – Torey Krug and Kyle Clifford.

I think most of us fans expected very little in the way of acquisitions this offseason. We assumed that Pietrangelo would be re-signed at great cost, and then maybe a name or two would be shipped out to make cap room for that contract. This expectation was reinforced by the Jake Allen trade last month.

The Blues didn’t need to make any big splashes, even if Pietrangelo left. The defense would still have Parayko, Dunn, Faulk, Scandella, Bortuzzo, Perunovich and others. Many assumed that if Petro were to move on, the Blues would use the cap savings to target a scoring forward.

Instead, Torey Krug and Kyle Clifford have joined the club, and a handful of players have been signed for AHL depth. Krug was the big surprise, of course, as the signing came late Friday evening. I had thought the Blues would wait to hear Pietrangelo’s decision. But no, Armstrong isn’t a late bird. He got a big worm in the form of Torey Krug, ferocious, effective defenseman that all Blues fans hated in last year’s Stanley Cup Finals.

While Krug isn’t the steady, all-around top-pairing D-man that Pietrangelo is, he’s a very capable point producer who plays with an edge. His specialty is the power play, with which the Blues always seem to need help. Krug was the 2nd best defenseman available in this year’s free agent crop. The 3rd best, TJ Brodie, signed earlier Friday with the Maple Leafs (a move which likely precluded a Pietrangelo addition for them).

Kyle Clifford also signed with the team, a 2-year deal worth $2 million. Clifford is a bottom 6 winger, and a very, very tough player with Stanley Cup rings to his name. He will play on the 4th line and bring grit and stability.

Clifford’s addition means there will be more chances for Kyrou and Kostin to play up in the lineup. This is probably a make-or-break year for Kyrou. The Blues need him to step up and be a regular offensive contributor, especially since they won’t have Tarasenko for a chunk of games, most likely.

So now the Blues team is taking shape for the 2020-2021 season. Let’s look at some lines & pairings below.

LWCRW
SchwartzO’ReillyPerron
SchennThomasBlais
SanfordBozakKyrou
CliffordBarbashevSundqvist
LDRD
KrugParayko
DunnFaulk
ScandellaBortuzzo

I do wish there was a more established winger on the second line (Tyler Toffoli anyone?), but Blais and Sanford are coming along nicely as scorers, and the team hopes Thomas will start putting in more goals to go with all his assists.

This has been a fun free agency period.