Blues’ Saad, Buchnevich and Neal Off to Hot Start

During the offseason St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong managed to stay quite busy. On July 18, the Blues traded Sammy Blais and a 2022 second-round draft pick to the New York Rangers in exchange for Russian forward Pavel Buchnevich. A few short days later, he signed a four-year, $23.2 million contract extension. Last season, Buchnevich recorded 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) in 54 games, a stat-line that Armstrong took notice of and wanted to capitalize on. He plays a strong game that fits well into the Blues’ current system, and has already found himself feeling comfortable on the third line with fellow Russians Klim Kostin, and Ivan Barbashev.

Pavel Buchnevich New York Rangers
Pavel Buchnevich, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Buchnevich has already got off to a quick start with five points (three goals, two assists) in 10 games. In a game against the Arizona Coyotes, Buchnevich head-butted forward Lawson Crouse – resulting in a two-game suspension. Nonetheless, he learned quickly from his mistake and has been able to slowly bounce back into the rhythm. He has seen ice time on the special teams, and in a recent game against the Winnipeg Jets he picked up a power-play goal. We should be able to see Buchnevich crack the 50-point mark this year if he stays healthy and out of trouble.

No More Saad Days

One of the hottest free agents on the market was swooped up quickly in a huge five-year, $22.5 million contract to the Blues. Two-time Stanley Cup Champion and former All-Star Brandon Saad agreed to terms with the Blues and provides them with some force up-front. Saad is a strong winger, who uses his strength and excellent skating to beat defenders and get in close to the net. Last season while playing for the Colorado Avalanche he registered 24 points (15 goals, nine assists) in 44 games.

Saad has been able to adjust well to life in St. Louis, currently he has five points (four goals, one assist) in eight games. As eager as Blues fans were to see Saad play in their uniform – it was a mutual excitement. In a press conference earlier in the season Saad mentioned:

“I’ve won in my career, I’ve been fortunate,” he said. “And once you get a taste of it, there’s no better feeling. When it comes down to it, I want to go somewhere where I have another chance of winning. I want to have a successful team and the Blues fit that mold.”

Brandon Saad

With Saad’s added championship presence in the locker room, it should only drive his fellow teammates to compete hard. This is a squad that is deeply connected and has what it takes to capture another Stanley Cup. Saad is a player that can be used on all four lines, and no matter what you will get his junkyard dog mentality.

Related: St. Louis Blues’ Robert Thomas Quietly Breaking Out

Neal’s PTO Pays Off

34-year-old veteran winger James Neal was eager to get a spot on the Blues roster this season. During the offseason he signed a player-tryout contract (PTO) with the Blues throughout pre-season. During pre-season, he would go on to lead the team with four goals in five games. As a result, Neal was offered a one-year deal. Neal stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 220 pounds, adding some much-needed size down the wing for the Blues. He has a history of being a player who is not afraid to battle hard for the puck and get physical. Having both him and Saad down the wing is crucial for the Blues.

On Oct. 9 Neal agreed to a one-year deal worth $750,000. Last year while with the Edmonton Oilers, he recorded 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 29 games. This season, he is off to a better start with four points (two goals, two assists) in 11 games and already looks to surpass recent point totals.

Armstrong’s Bets Paying Off

So far, it seems that Doug Armstrong’s off-season acquisitions have been paying off quite well. With Brayden Schenn sidelined with an upper-body injury, Saad has been able to step up in his absence getting some first-line minutes alongside Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron. This is a roster that is ready for another championship run and with the addition of those three key components, expect the Blues to put up a bloody battle all season long.

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