Blues Add Depth Defenseman in Borgman

The St. Louis Blues made a minor trade today, sending longtime defensive prospect Jordan Schmaltz to the Toronto Maple Leafs for one of their young defensemen, Andreas Borgman.

While the trade seems insignificant on the surface, it gives the Blues added flexibility in a number of ways. Additionally, by trading Schmaltz, the organization moved on from perhaps the biggest draft bust ever under general manager Doug Armstrong.

Schmaltz’s Blues Tenure

The Blues drafted Schmaltz with the 25th pick in the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft. It was not a particularly deep draft class, and many remember it as one of the weaker drafts in NHL history. But Schmaltz showed promise early on. Scouts saw him as a “boom or bust” prospect, who had the potential to develop into a top offensive defender, but whose game was not yet polished.

Jordan Schmaltz Blues
Jordan Schmaltz never quite developed into the star offensive defenseman the Blues hoped for when they drafted him 25th overall in 2012 (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

Schmaltz went on to play with his brother, Nick, at the University of North Dakota. He excelled there, posting 64 points in 125 games, before going pro at the AHL level with the Chicago Wolves. Even there he looked good, collecting just over half a point per game with 36 in 71.

But Schmaltz would never quite flourish at the NHL level. He made his debut on Mar. 3, 2017, but has seen only inconsistent playing time to date. In the last three seasons, he has played 42 games, collecting five points and going minus-seven. He has a career Corsi for percentage in the NHL of 46 percent.

Mike Babcock Team Canada World Cup
Mike Babcock tends to prefer heavier, defensively reliable blueliners, a mold into which Schmaltz does not fit. (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

In Schmaltz, the Maple Leafs acquire a good skater and solid playmaker who, at just 25, could still have some developing to do. In many ways, his game is similar to Jake Gardiner’s, although his quality is nowhere near that level. But one wonders if head coach Mike Babcock, who typically prefers larger and more stalwart defenders, will have enough patience to give Schmaltz an opportunity at the NHL level. At the very least, he should be a solid contributor in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies.

The Benefits of Borgman

In Borgman, the Blues are getting added flexibility in a number of ways. For one, he is most of two years younger than Schmaltz. He does not have the same draft pedigree; going undrafted, he signed with the Maple Leafs before the 2017-18 season. Even so, Borgman has already played six more games than Schwartz, as he played 48 in Toronto in that 2017-18 campaign, scoring three goals and eight assists along the way.

Beside his youth, Borgman also provides the Blues with flexibility in two other areas. First, he is a left-handed defenseman whereas Schmaltz was right-handed. While the Blues have more lefties in the system, they are also much more likely to have a need there sooner, as Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarsson are aging and on short-term contracts.

More importantly, Borgman gives St. Louis financial flexibility. Schmaltz was on a one-way contract, and almost certainly would have been sent through waivers. Had he cleared them, the team would have owed him the entire $700,000 on his contract. Had he not, a team would have claimed his services and the Blues would have lost him for nothing.

Noel Acciari; Andreas Borgman
Erstwhile Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Andreas Borgman battles for the puck along the boards with Boston Bruins centre Noel Acciari. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

With Borgman on a two-way contract, it will be much easier for the Blues to shuttle him from the NHL roster to the AHL roster if necessary. Moreover, if he is down in the AHL, the Blues will save $500,000 in cash, though neither Schmaltz nor Borgman would affect the team’s salary cap in the AHL.

Armstrong’s Minor Tweaks

So far, Armstrong has made only minor tweaks to the Blues’ roster. Borgman provides a number of advantages that Schmaltz did not, and it is entirely possible that the Blues prefer him as a player on top of that flexibility. But it seems that the team is not intending to make any major changes from the Stanley Cup roster.

Of course, none of that will be totally settled until the team signs its two remaining restricted free agents, Joel Edmundson and Ivan Barbashev. If the Blues can re-sign those two, they will be at full strength and ready to make another run.