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.

Sandford and Sunny

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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?

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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.