Blues’ 2023 NHL Draft Trade Block

Outside of nailing the 10th-overall pick in the upcoming 2023 NHL Entry Draft, moving one (or multiple) high-priced poor performers should be the highest priority for the St. Louis Blues as they aim for a soft re-tooling in favor of a total teardown. Doing so, unfortunately, will not be easy or come at little cost for president of hockey operations and general manager Doug Armstrong.

2023 NHL Draft Trade Block St. Louis Blues Torey Krug, Jordan Binnington and Colton Parayko
Colton Parayko, Jordan Binnington and Torey Krug (The Hockey Writers)

According to CapFriendly, the team currently sits with $7,506,667 in available cap space for the 2023-24 season, not including restricted free agents (RFA) Alexey Toropchenko and Tyler Tucker, both of which should earn a decent pay increase. In order to move forward with this current core group of players, the Blues are going to have to make some difficult decisions with some of their under-performing veterans to give the club more financial flexibility for 2023-24 and beyond.

On the Block

Torey Krug

Remaining contract: four years, $6.5 million average annual value (AAV); no-trade clause (NTC)

Torey Krug‘s time so far with the Blues has been rocky. In his previous seven full-time seasons with the Boston Bruins from 2013-2020, he averaged 74 games per season and 0.64 points per game. Since joining the Blues in the summer of 2020, he’s averaged just 59 games per season and 0.60 points per game over three seasons. Signed to a seven-year, $45 million deal that includes a full NTC until the 2025-26 season, the Blues appear to be ready and willing to part with the 32-year-old defenseman.

Torey Krug St. Louis Blues
Torey Krug, St. Louis Blues (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Krug is still a good player and is a particularly great asset on the power play, and such a player has value in the NHL. The issue in moving him is going to be finding a partner willing to take on all (or most) of his remaining contract. This past season was statistically the worst of his career (63 games, 32 points, minus-26) and the Blues already have in-house replacements in Scott Perunovich and Nick Leddy. If Armstrong can find an interested team, and is willing to part with one of their lower-first rounders as well, that may be enough to make a deal happen.

Nick Leddy

Remaining contract: three years, $4 million AAV; no-trade clause

Opting to re-sign Leddy and subsequently letting David Perron leave via free agency last summer was arguably Armstrong’s biggest gaffe during the offseason. The line of thinking was that the club needed to shore up its defensive core and had enough offensively to cover for the production lost. Unfortunately, Leddy’s play in 2022-23 did nothing to that point and only reiterated that the Blues’ defense remains in need of an upgrade.

Related: 2023 NHL Draft Guide

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Similar to Krug, the 2021-22 season was one of Leddy’s worst throughout his 13-year career. He managed to play in 78 of 82 games, but scored just two goals and 23 points total. He was billed by the team as a top-pairing defenseman alongside Colton Parayko, playing just over 21 minutes per game. In actuality, the 32-year-old is more of a fourth or fifth defenseman. His age, declining skills, and NTC are going to make him very difficult to move — although his $4 million cap hit is tolerable.

Robert Bortuzzo

Remaining contract: one year, $950,000 AAV

Out of all of their “available” defensemen, Robert Bortuzzo may actually be the easiest to move. The return for a 34-year-old, stay-at-home defenseman is going to be nowhere near ground-breaking. However, his cap hit of just $950,000 could easily fit within nearly every team’s budget and he’s been a very consistent player when healthy. He saw action in only 43 games this season due to multiple injuries, but still managed to record 49 blocked shots and was a plus-9 player.

Robert Bortuzzo St. Louis Blues
Robert Bortuzzo. St. Louis Blues (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He’s not a scoring threat whatsoever (five points in 2022-23), but plays a valuable role as a 6/7 defenseman who is solid on the penalty kill and is viewed as a “glue guy” in the locker room. With all of that being said, those are also reasons as to why the Blues may opt to hang on to him. The return for Bortuzzo would likely not be significant, thus it’s highly likely he’ll be on the club once next season rolls around.

Marco Scandella

Remaining contract: one year, $3.275 million AAV; modified no-trade clause

Another offseason coming up and another round of Marco Scandella being on the Blues’ block. A rocky start and finish to the 2022-23 season limited the lefty defenseman to just 20 games. Injuries are starting to pile up for the 33-year-old 13-year veteran, as he began the season with a major hip injury (and surgery) and ended it with a foot injury. If there is a trade partner out there for the Blues, a likely destination will be a team that is needing to take on cap to reach the salary floor. But if he isn’t traded or bought out, and he’s fully healthy, it’s easy to see a path for him to remain with the club for at least the start of next season.

First-Round Picks

Picks 25 (New York Rangers) & 29 (Dallas Stars)

Thanks in part to savvy trades, the Blues own nine picks in the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft, with three of them being in the first round (10, 25, 29). It’s been made clear many times that Armstrong fully intends to make a selection with pick 10. However, that’s not necessarily the case for picks 25 and 29.

It’s been floated out there that the Blues could have interest in moving up from the No. 10 spot, packaging that pick, 25 or 29, plus another piece in an effort to obtain a higher-impact prospect. Another idea would be to attach one or both of 25 and 29 to players with unfavorable cap hits (ex: Krug, Parayko) in order to sweeten the pot and facilitate a deal.

Available in the Right Deal

Colton Parayko

Remaining contract: seven years, $6.5 million AAV; no-trade clause

Since the departure of Pietrangelo, Parayko has been viewed as the Blue’s number one defenseman. But since being handed that baton, he hasn’t proven to be worth that title or the pay raise that came with it. A lot of that time has been marred by a lingering back injury that has assuredly affected the 6-foot-6 defender’s abilities. But after playing in 80 games in 2021-22 and 79 in 2022-23, that issue seems to have been resolved.

Colton Parayko St. Louis Blues
Colton Parayko, St. Louis Blues (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The main issue with Parayko lies within his usage. He’s a top four defenseman being masqueraded as a number one. If he could be utilized as a two, three, or four and not relied upon to be “the guy,” it’s likely he could regain some of the form that was displayed in the 2018-19 season. His $6.5 million cap hit can be tolerable given his size and that he’s a righthand shot, but his full NTC potentially limits his suitors.

Calle Rosén

Remaining contract: one year, $762,500 AAV

Hands down, Calle Rosén was both the Blues’ biggest surprise and best defenseman in 2022-23, posting career-highs in every single category. His eight goals were second on the team among defensemen (Faulk: 10) while his plus/minus of plus-19 was the best mark by any Blues player this past season. All of this came in just 49 games.

The issue with Rosén is that he’s a 29-year-old, journeyman, left-shot defender. As it sits right now, the Blues have a logjam on the left side with Rosén, Krug, Leddy, Scandella, Perunovich all in the fold for the 2023-24 season. He did play on the right side some last season, but unless another move is made to free up a spot, Rosén projects to be a sixth or seventh defenseman on this squad despite his stellar play. If Armstrong opts to make him available, I could see a late-round pick being the return.

Jordan Binnington

Remaining contract: four years, $6 million AAV; no-trade clause

Goaltending is fickle in the NHL. During the 2022 Draft, we saw the Blues move Ville Husso to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a third-round pick (73rd overall). Coming off a very strong season in which he led the team to the playoffs in 2021-22, Husso followed that up with a down year with his new team (26-22-7, .896 save percentage). Regaining the reigns of the full-time starter in St. Louis after Husso was dealt, Jordan Binnington did little this season to instill hope that he’s a true starting goalie in the NHL.

Jordan Binnington St. Louis Blues
Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

He made a career high 61 starts, but went 27-27-6 in the process with career lows in save percentage (.894) and goals against average (3.31). If you watched the Blues much this season, you’ll know that the defense in front of him was awful for most of his starts, often finding themselves out of structure and leaving him out to dry. So, it’s not 100 percent on him, but there are for sure games and moments he would like to have back. He’s not “available,” especially with the Blues only having a rookie behind him in Joel Hofer, but there are plenty of teams every offseason in need of a change in net that could sway Armstrong into listening.

I did not include any forwards on this list, but a few names that could be interesting are Brandon Saad ($4.5 AAV through 2025-26; NTC) and Nathan Walker ($775,000 AAV through 2023-24). Saad is a solid, two-way winger who can play in any team’s top-nine while Walker is a decent depth piece who can provide a spark from time to time as a mostly bottom-six player. With nine draft picks and some contracts that I am sure they would like to get off the books, I would expect the Blues to be one of the more active teams leading up to the draft and could be looking to make multiple moves on either day of the draft itself.

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