Resumed Pursuit?

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Yesterday I saw on Twitter that the St. Louis Blues were reportedly asking about the price to acquire Buffalo Sabres winger Taylor Hall.

If you recall, the Blues also reportedly were in talks in 2019 when the Devils made him available. He eventually went to the Coyotes for a steep, 4-piece package that included a conditional 1st round pick and a 3rd rounder. The price is even more steep considering he fled the Coyotes in free agency to sign with Buffalo.

Hall is on a one year deal with the Sabres, which makes him, yet again, a rental player for any acquiring team. The price, per the Sabres, is apparently a 1st round draft pick. Hall, though 32 games, has just 2 goals this season, and the fact that he isn’t lighting up the scoresheet may suppress the price.

The other day, Eric Staal fetched a 3rd and 5th round pick from Montreal. Staal isn’t a forward of Hall’s ability by any means, but he does have 10 points on the season.

So let’s break this down from the Blues perspective. The Blues are in a kind of free fall right, losing last night to the less than world-beating Ducks, and with their offense in a severe funk. The fundamentals are spotty, and the team is suffering from defensive breakdowns, not to mention an unprecedented injury bug. Some fans are convinced this isn’t their year.

So why would the Blues want to acquire Hall? Well, Doug Armstrong is always on the prowl for elite talent that could help the team out now (and in the future). Hall is 29, still in the prime of his career (theoretically). Armstrong probably isn’t sure what they have in Tarasenko, recently returned from injury. Will he regain his elite form? The team will lose a player in this summer’s expansion draft. So all that may have Armstrong seeing how he can change up the roster and add scoring. Presumably, the Blues would look to extend Hall in the offseason.

If they were so inclined, they would have the salary cap space for it. The contracts of Bozak, Schwartz, Gunnarsson, and Hoffman are all up after this season.

But the Blues may be interested primarily because they view a shakeup of the team’s chemistry as necessary for the playoff push. They’ve lost 7 of their last 10 games.

So what would the price be? The Blues aren’t averse to trading draft picks, even 1st round ones. Their 1st for the 2021 draft is intact should they want to offer it. But teams need to hang on to their 1st round picks if they want to keep the talent pipeline flowing. And certainly, the price gets less the longer Buffalo holds on to Hall.

The Blues also may look to shake up things even more by spinning off underperforming players for picks, which they could package to get Hall. Although any of the players that could conceivably be moved – Dunn, Hoffman – would fetch a 1st round pick.

So I think a Hall acquisition to be unlikely, but Armstrong is more than capable of pulling off a surprise. And wouldn’t Hall look great in the Note sweater.

Free Agency Surprise

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

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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.

Best to be a 1st?

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LW David Perron is one of the anchor forwards for the Blues, and he is a former 1st-round draft pick

I recently had an interchange on Twitter about draft pick value. My discussion counterpart pointed out that after the top 15 picks, the likelihood of being an NHL regular decreases considerably.

Continue reading “Best to be a 1st?”