The St. Louis Blues missed a golden opportunity to claim a young, cheap prospect with high upside on Monday when the team decided to pass on claiming former first-round pick Eeli Tolvanen from the Nashville Predators. Instead, the Seattle Kraken got better by claiming the Finnish forward (from ‘Kraken claim Eeli Tolvanen off waivers from Predators: What the forward brings to Seattle, where he fits’ The Athletic 12/12/22).
The Blues are in a tailspin as a franchise, as it appears that a rebuild is coming quickly in St. Louis for the first time since the early 2000s. General manager Doug Armstrong had a chance to improve a team that is only five points out of a playoff spot but instead decided to stick with the group that is currently in place.
St. Louis had an opportunity to create some optimism among the fanbase and the locker room with a new addition that would have cost them just $1.45 million for the next two years. Instead, the Blues will head into their next stretch of games with the same forward group that has been inconsistent all season.
The Blues would need to make a corresponding move to fit Tolvanen’s contract into the tight cap constraints that St. Louis already has. It’s unclear when Buchnevich will be back in action for the Blues, and placing him on injured reserve would clear up enough room to grab Tolvanen from waivers.
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Things were not working in Nashville for Tolvanen. However, similar to the plea to trade for Edmonton forward Jesse Pulujarvi, anytime a former first-round pick becomes available, it never hurts to take a flyer and add him to the roster to see if it could spark his career.
What Could Have Been With Tolvanen
In five seasons with the Nashville Predators, Tolvanen had 51 points in 135 NHL games. Last season, he recorded 11 goals and 12 assists in 75 competitions for the Predators, and 10 of his 11 goals came at even strength. Despite his lack of production, he would have been an excellent depth piece for the Blues.
Through 13 games this season, Tolvanen recorded two goals and two assists before being placed on waivers. Those are not great numbers, but his two goals are more than Colton Parayko, and his four points are more than what the Blues have tried to plug in on the third line in Jake Neighbours and Will Bitten.
Tolvanen could have easily slid into the Blues’ top-9 forward group, even when Buchnevich returns from injury. There has been a revolving door of bottom-9 forwards that have come in and tried to make an impact on the roster but have not been able to stick around in St. Louis.
Neighbours was sent down early in the season when the Blues had their first losing skid of the season and has not produced at all since coming back up. Bitten has one point in four games this season and is not a top-end prospect. Alexey Toropchenko and Nikita Alexandrov have filtered in and out of the lineup all season, and Logan Brown has just five games played and is still on injured reserve.
Outside of the Blues’ top two lines, there has not been much production in the lineup, and it’s a big reason why the team is on the outside looking in when it comes to the Central Division, let alone a playoff spot. So anything to shake up the locker room needs to be considered, and Armstrong missed the mark with Tolvanen.
The Blues do not have anything to lose at this point, and the only reason not to claim a young forward like this is because the team is trying to fall further out of contention for a better playoff spot. We haven’t seen the Blues enter tank mode in a long time, and despite the struggles, the Blues have legitimate NHL talent on the roster, so it’s hard to see them falling too far out of contention.
St. Louis doesn’t seem to know which direction it wants to go. They need to figure it out quickly or risk finishing the season a few points out of a playoff spot but still not getting into the NHL lottery for a chance at a high-end draft prospect.
Tolvanen’s struggles might continue in Seattle, but at $1.45 million a year for the next two years, it would have been an inexpensive waiver claim that could have been the jolt the Blues needed to turn its season around. Instead, the team will carry on with the roster they have until Armstrong is ready to make some moves.