The St. Louis Blues made a few significant moves last summer to improve their team, none bigger than trading for Pavel Buchnevich from the New York Rangers. After the trade, they signed him to a four-year deal with an annual average value (AAV) of $5.8 million.
He’s been tremendous this season, with the ability to make an impact in every aspect of the game. This piece was an idea from our Boston Bruins’ writing team, who wrote about the impact and value of Craig Smith.
Buchnevich’s Line Chemistry With Anyone
With nearly every line he’s played on this season, there has been production on both ends of the ice. Despite a somewhat slow start to the season, Buchnevich has been able to mesh well with any center on the line he’s played on. His linemates have been far more consistent over the last two months of the season than the prior months, and that has impacted the entire team in a positive way.
The best line for the Blues this season at any point has clearly been Buchnevich with Robert Thomas and Vladimir Tarasenko. Overall, Buchnevich has 46 points in 47 games, Thomas has 34 assists in 46 games, and Tarasenko has 19 goals in 48 games. They haven’t played all season together, but their impact has been quite obvious when they are together on the ice. Their impact has been so prevalent recently that with all of the line shuffling, head coach Craig Berube hasn’t changed this line.
The line of those three has an expected goals percentage (xG%) of 60, which is 11 points higher than the next best. The next best in that stat is Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, and Brandon Saad, which is another line that recently came together and played well.
Though it’s not an indictment on Ivan Barabshev, he was on a line with Thomas and Tarasenko before Buchnevich, they had an xG% of 45.2. The numbers with Buchnevich on the line compared to Barbashev just isn’t close, and it makes sense as the Buchnevich version of the line seems to have more chemistry.
The other incredible stat for this line is their expected goals (xG) per 60 minutes, versus their expected goals against (xGA) per 60 minutes. Their xG per 60 minutes is 3.16, while their xGA per 60 minutes is 2.11. The xGA per 60 minutes number of 2.11 is lower than six of the top seven for the Blues. They’ve been an incredible line and there is more to come with this trio.
Buchnevich and the Two-Way Ability
Everybody knew what Buchnevich was when he was dealt to the Blues, which was a two-winger with strengths in many parts of the game. He has shown all of that ability this season with the Blues, he is a perfect fit to their current mold of players and the style they want to play.
While the salary cap issues of the Rangers were understood, it has become clear that they didn’t receive enough in the Buchnevich trade. Their return with Sammy Blais and a second-round pick doesn’t appear to be enough for a player of this caliber. This is just an example of the brilliance with Blues general manager (GM) Doug Armstrong, as he took advantage of the situation and got rid of less than expected for a productive player.
Buchnevich’s Corsi for percentage (CF%), which is the percentage of puck possession when Buchnevich is on the ice, is sitting at 54.6 That’s much higher than his number last season, and the CF% above 50 means that the Blues control the puck more often than not when Buchnevich is on the ice. The bottom line is that Buchnevich playing significant minutes for this team is a great thing, his presence in all three zones is fantastic.
Buchnevich’s Offensive Production
There is no doubt that Buchnevich’s offensive production has increased in nearly all six of his NHL seasons. He’s been a fantastic offensive threat for this team and he was that for the majority of his Rangers’ career, despite not contending or ever getting a ton of playoff experience.
|Season||Goals Per Game||Assists Per Game||Points Per Game||Adjusted Points Per Game|
Source: Hockey Reference
There is an increase in every number other than the adjusted goals per game, which adjusts the number based on an 82-game schedule, the league average of six goals per game, and 1.67 assists per goal. There were signs of Buchnevich’s dynamic offensive ability in his entire career with the Rangers, and he’s put nearly everything together over the last few seasons.
The Blues having this type of force on both ends of the ice for the next couple of seasons at a salary-cap hit of less than $6 million is fantastic. He fits right into the mold and will easily be a top-six forward for the entirety of the contract, with the potential of a Buchenvich, Thomas, and Jordan Kyrou line being ahead in the future. He’s a dynamic passer and skater, but he can really shoot the puck at a high level too.
Overall, this will likely rank as one of the top five trades made by Armstrong when everybody looks back on his tenure when it’s over. While some of it is based on the fact that they didn’t give up much for Buchnevich, the player himself should be a massive part of this group for a long time. I was wrong in not wanting the Blues to pursue this deal last summer, as I assumed the price would be astronomical, but I’ve learned to trust Armstrong and his ability to make high-quality deals.