The St. Louis Blues made just one move during the 2021-22 trade deadline, and it was an underwhelming move. They traded forward Oskar Sundqvist, defenseman Jake Walman, and a 2023 second-round pick to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for defensemen Nick Leddy and Luke Witkowski. The fan reaction to this deal is not good on the side of the Blues throughout the NHL, and they may not be wrong.
Related: Blues Acquire Nick Leddy from Red Wings
Leddy was always a realistic choice for the Blues, but not at the price of what they gave up. It seems as if general manager Doug Armstrong may be looking ahead to this offseason by clearing Sundqvist off the books and sending restricted free agent (RFA) Walman away.
Blues Overpaid for Leddy
The trade market has been robust due to legitimate Stanley Cup contenders giving up too much for acquisitions, and a good example of that is the Boston Bruins moving a first-round pick, two second-round picks, and two players for Hampus Lindholm. The Bruins then gave Lindholm an eight-year extension, which is something the Blues would not have done upon a deal. The Blues could not have been comfortable to pay the prices that the Florida Panthers did for Ben Chiarot and what the Bruins surrendered for Lindholm.
Barring a trade during the summer, the Blues will not have a second-round pick in either the 2022 or 2023 drafts. They are clearly fine with moving out draft capital in exchange for retained salary, as the Red Wings retained 50 percent of Leddy’s $5.5 million cap hit and salary for the rest of this season. This was also a signal that the Blues are not comfortable moving on from their top prospects such as Jake Neighbours, Zachary Bolduc, and Scott Perunovich, even as teams were likely trying to get them in return.
Leddy has been a shell of his former self for a few seasons now, and there are many ways to determine that. He still maintains his electric skating ability and moves the puck well in some areas, but every other part of the game has been a struggle for him. He has the second-worst plus/minus in the league at minus-33, behind only Keith Yandle. It’s a subjective stat, but it is telling that he’s been that poor. The last three seasons have been well below his standards, and the data backs that up.
The numbers for Leddy don’t look good, nearly every metric has been down for him over the last three seasons. Two of those seasons were spent with one of the league’s best defensive units in the New York Islanders, and this season has been with a poor Red Wings defense. He brings experience, puck movement, and skating ability to the Blues, but it feels like the number of assets given up wasn’t worth it for this player in his current form.
Clearing up Cap Space for the Offseason
Sundqvist carried a cap hit of $2.75 million on the Blues’ books, so they clear that to move into the offseason with a bit more flexibility. In his return from the ACL injury, he was a shell of his former self and has been struggling all season, a change of scenery may prove to be good for him.
Sundqvist was a great asset for the Blues throughout the better part of five seasons, was an essential bottom-six forward on the 2019 Stanley Cup-winning team, there are now just 10 players left from that team. That number illustrates the amount of NHL roster turnover over the last three seasons, it’s been no different for the Blues.
The Blues enter this offseason with the chance to extend David Perron as his contract expires, and focus on extending the likes of Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, and Ryan O’Reilly before their contracts expire. It always felt like keeping Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev on the roster would be difficult with the cap situation over the next few seasons, so Sundqvist became the odd man out. Figuring out what to do with the Ville Husso and Jordan Binnington on the cap is another huge move to come this summer.
Walman and Sundqvist are Good Fits for Red Wings
As a rebuilding team, the Red Wings are adding two quality players who can grow into their own roles. Sundqvist still has the potential to be a terrific third-or-fourth-line center, while Walman is a good skating defenseman with upside. Sundqvist has a contract for next season as well, he could slot in as fourth-line center right away.
As for Walman, he is worth exploring as a third-pairing defenseman, his shot and skating ability are worth a chance alone. He was a plus-3 with six points in 32 games this season and yet, gained more experience with fewer minutes this season. The second-round pick that the Red Wings got is the cherry on top for another quality deal for their general manager Steve Yzerman, who has a knack for making quality trades.
Grading the Trade
It’s hard for me to see a scenario where this trade works out in favor of the Blues, it feels like a longshot that Leddy makes a huge impact on the club. This feels like a rare loss in a trade for Armstrong — it’s still too early to tell — but that’s the sense on the surface. This was in no way a ceiling-changing move for the Blues, as they still feel like a second-round exit team at the most.
Blues Grade: D
Red Wings Grade: A-
Those grades may seem harsh, but even with the current trade market, this is still too much for the Blues to give up for a defenseman who has struggled for three consecutive seasons. I hope that I am wrong with this deal and that Leddy finds his game and revitalizes Colton Parayko in the process, but that feels like a longshot.