5 Blues Players That Would Make Good Trade Bait

The St. Louis Blues have wrapped up their 2021-22 season with a 49-22-11 record and third place in the Central Division. They also made it to the playoffs, where they got eliminated in six games by the eventual Stanley Cup champion, Colorado Avalanche. The club currently has 10 players (three forwards, six defensemen, and one goaltender) under contract beyond the 2022-23 season. With a multitude of contracts coming due to current and future cornerstone pieces, cap space will be a crucial component of the teams’ success moving forward. With that in mind, here are five players the front office could use as trade bait to create cap space and create positional depth.

Ivan Barbashev

The Blues hit the jackpot this season with nine players scoring over 20 goals. One of those came in the unlikely form of 26-year-old Ivan Barbashev. After finishing his sixth season in the NHL, the franchise’s second-round choice of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft not only hit a career-high in goals scored but shattered his previous single-season record of 14 goals and 26 points. This past season could be a sign of good things to come for him after scoring 26 goals and 60 points over 81 games.

During the 2021-22 season, the Russian saw a four-minute increase in his average time on ice per game compared to his first five seasons with the organization. Along with that, he recorded a 23.4 shooting percentage, 6.1% higher than his first five seasons in the NHL. The high shooting rate last season brings his career average to 19.2%, suggesting a regression could still occur in the future. The question that must be asked now is: who is the real Ivan Barbashev?

Ivan Barbashev St. Louis Blues
Ivan Barbashev, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Looking over his past six seasons in St. Louis, Barbashev has been a player pushed to a bottom-six role where his primary duty was to play a body-checking style of play and prevent scoring opportunities. Last season, he saw an increased amount of ice time and responsibility after Jaden Schwartz signed with the Seattle Kraken, leaving his role open for the taking.

Barbashev proved last season that he can be a game-changing forward for the team, but one that disappears in the playoffs. This postseason, he appeared in 12 games where he managed just over a shot on goal per game, registering two assists and a minus-6 rating. What makes matters worse is that he has appeared in 50 postseason games to date scoring only three goals and nine points in that time. With one year left on his contract at $2.25 million, he becomes an intriguing option for the Blues should they wish to package him in a trade, or a player that could command more money than he is worth based on his successful regular season.

Logan Brown

The returning player from the team’s trade of Zach Sanford, Logan Brown has seemingly earned himself a time-share role in the Blues organization. Coming off of a career year of four goals and 11 points in 39 games, the club seems intrigued by the former 11th overall draft choice and what he could bring to the team.

At only 24 years old, Brown stands at 6-foot-6 and 218 pounds, offering plenty of size that can knock a player off the puck in a given moment. Whether he wants to play a gritty style in the NHL will be up to him, as he has never been known for his physical style of play, but one that uses his large frame as a key part of his success in the offensive zone. After scoring 74 goals and 205 points in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and 29 goals and 96 points in the American Hockey League (AHL), he has proven he can contribute offensively. Like Barbashev, it may take longer for him to mature and adapt to the NHL to become an effective goal-scoring member of the team. However, as players with higher offensive projections like Klim Kostin, Jake Neighbours, and Zach Bolduc become NHL-ready, it could come at the expense of someone like Brown.

Brown re-signed with St. Louis on Feb. 8, 2022, to a one-year, one-way contract worth $750,000 in what could be a “prove it” season with the Blues and an easily moveable asset should the team wish to part ways with him.

Klim Kostin

With less than a full season of NHL games under his belt, the 23-year-old Russian is an enigma for the Blues organization. Earning a roster spot at the beginning of the year, Kostin did not play in the team’s opening game of the year against the Colorado Avalanche but was quickly inserted into the lineup for the second game against the Arizona Coyotes. It was then that he scored his first two goals of the season to help his team win 7-4 and it wasn’t until Feb. 10, 2022, that he scored his third goal, a full 30 games later.

Klim Kostin St. Louis Blues
Klim Kostin, St. Louis Blues (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images),

Kostin’s stock dropped during his 2017 Draft season after being thought of as a top 10 draft choice. His December injury paired with zero goals in eight Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) games and one goal in the VHL, the second-highest Russian ice hockey league, caused him to fall to the Blues with the 31st overall draft choice. The front office knows they have a potential game-changing power forward in their organization and may be hesitant to move on at this point in his young career.

In what was supposed to be his first full season in the NHL, Kostin was demoted to the club’s AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, after scoring four goals and nine points in 40 games which is only an 18-point pace over 82 games. He saw an increase in production over his 17 games with the Thunderbirds scoring three goals and six points, a 29-point pace. He continued his uptick in production during the team’s Calder Cup run, scoring four goals and eight points in 18 postseason games, a 36-point pace. Along with the aforementioned Brown, he will likely be fighting for a roster spot with Alexei Toropchenko, Dakota Joshua, and Jake Neighbours, making him a potential trade chip toward acquiring a left-side defenseman, a positional need the team will likely be addressing this offseason.

Marco Scandella

Heading into the offseason, the Blues have a multitude of options for their left-side defensemen. As Torey Krug seems locked up with Justin Faulk, this leaves defensive pairing matches to be determined for veterans Robert Bortuzzo and Colton Parayko. To fill this void, the team currently has Marco Scandella and Calle Rosén under contract, along with Niko Mikkola and Scott Perunovich listed as restricted free agents. Regardless of which line is listed as the team’s top-pairing unit, Parayko and Bortuzzo will be playing opposite minutes and roles of one another, the latter being an easier match to find and pair with.

Related: Blues’ Acquisition of Leddy is Band-Aid on Defensive Depth

As the team’s season ended, they had just over $9 million available in cap space available to them, as Scandella is owed $3.275 million per season for the next two years. While the 32-year-old veteran can be a reliable option to insert into the lineup on a nightly basis, it seems he has become more than just a placeholder, but a financial obstacle for the team as they look to re-sign multiple pieces of their roster in the coming seasons. The Montreal native has served his role and proven his worth with the team at times. However, he could be a piece moved out to free up cap space and allow others the opportunity at a full-time role in the NHL. The only obstacle and potential snag for general manager Doug Armstrong and the front office staff are that Scandella has a modified no-trade clause and can blacklist up to seven teams as trade options.

Vladimir Tarasenko

While it may be curious and an unthinkable factor for many teams that their leading goal scorer and point producer would be listed as trade bait, Vladimir Tarasenko is one of, if not the most intriguing storylines heading into the offseason. After publicly requesting a trade last year, he remained a Blue all season and proved to the masses that he was healthy and back to form after scoring 34 goals and 82 points in 75 games. However, he is also one of four major forward pieces that are entering their final year with St. Louis this season and will be needing a renewal sooner than later.

To the delight of many, Tarasenko’s health and offensive resurgence were one of the key factors that helped propel the Blues into the second round of the playoffs against the Avalanche. The connection between Tarasenko, Robert Thomas, and Pavel Buchnevich has many penciling the trio together to start the upcoming season with one another, no questions asked. However, the question remains about his long-term health. While there seemed to be no long-lasting issues this season, fans seemed to collectively hold their breath any time he was checked along the boards or had any collision that involved his shoulder. It is for this reason that the front office could be dangling an 80-point player as an available trade option for someone that is cheaper and plays a different position in order to address multiple needs in the organization.

The club has options to throw out as viable trade candidates and should consider moving at least one of them this offseason. The current state of the Blues’ depth chart has several options that would do well in a supporting cast but lack the top-end, first-line talent prospect that so many organizations around them can boast.

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