The St. Louis Blues currently sit in third place in the NHL’s Central Division, two points behind the Nashville Predators and three points ahead of the Dallas Stars. With the most games played in the Western Conference, the second half has limited opportunities for the Blues to advance in the division. The trade deadline is fast approaching and a splash in the market could help the Blues, but their options are limited, and time is running out.
A Tumultuous Blues Trade History
It’s hard to forget, no matter how hard I try, that the Blues have a bad history of deadline deals. Approaching deadline day in 2014, the Blues sent Chris Stewart, Jaroslav Halak, William Carrier, and two picks to the Buffalo Sabres for Ryan Miller and Steve Ott. The deal ended up derailing the season, and Ryan Miller left after an early playoff exit.
A 2008 deal saw the Blues acquire Cam Janssen for Bryce Salvador, a dependable blue liner that helped lead the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011-12. Who could forget the deadline deals in 2007 that saw Bill Guerin traded to the San Jose Sharks and Keith Tkachuk sent to the Atlanta Thrashers?
The biggest trade happened in 1996 when the Blues acquired Wayne Gretzky from the Los Angeles Kings for three players and two picks. In 31 games with the Blues he registered 37 points, yet was all but absent in the final games against the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though – the acquisitions of Jay Bouwmeester, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Chris Osgood all proved to be valuable moves that helped the Blues more than they hurt. The key to the Blues improving their roster this season, and helping their push for the playoffs, is to acquire a player without giving up too much.
Max Pacioretty: Swinging for the Fences
Of all the names currently being tossed around the rumor mill this year, Max Pacioretty is by far the most appealing (at least for forwards). The 29-year-old left winger has recorded four consecutive 30-goal seasons for the Montreal Canadiens, which could be more considering he posted a 30-goal campaign prior to the lockout-shortened season in 2012-13.
Pacioretty’s cap hit is $4.5 million, and with his impending free agency, it’s likely he would be a rental at best for the Blues. But that doesn’t mean they should just give up on acquiring him. With all that being said, the Canadiens have high expectations for what they would like in return for Pacioretty.
As of right now, the Habs want a first-round pick, a second-round pick, a top prospect, and a ‘warm body’ roster player. The Blues do not have a 2018 first-round pick, but they do have the rest of their picks for 2018 and 2019. To make cap room for Pacioretty, the warm body would have to be one of their veteran players who makes at least close to what Pacioretty does.
A potential package deal could be Paul Stastny (cap hit of $7 million), Robert Thomas (first round, 20th overall 2017), a 2018 second-round pick, and the Blues first-round pick in 2019. In this scenario, the Blues can move Vladimir Sobotka to center on the second line and have Pacioretty play opposite to Alexander Steen on the wing. This gives them a scoring punch that is lacking with Stastny at the helm.
It’s the definition of a long shot, and honestly, we don’t know if the Canadiens even want to trade away their best player. However, the reward is worth the risk and the Blues need help to solve their offensive anemia to relieve the stellar play of Carter Hutton.
Mike Hoffman: The Most Likely Contender
Mike Hoffman has good numbers surrounding his name: three consecutive 20-goal seasons for the Ottawa Senators, including 11 points in last season’s playoff run to the Eastern Conference Finals. The 2017-18 season hasn’t been as rewarding to Hoffman as the last few seasons, but to be fair, the rest of the Senators team hasn’t been helping him out either. Hoffman is tied for second on the team in points, and below him there’s no one else with 30 points on the roster.
Hoffman’s cap hit of $5.18 million isn’t quite so bad when you factor in that he has two years left on his deal. He’s a potential long-term aid for the Blues instead of a rental. The Senators haven’t done much in shooting down the rumors, only stating that Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone are off the table.
If the Blues could package together Paul Stastny and a prospect such as Klim Kostin or Robert Thomas, then the deal should not only be easy to pull off but beneficial down the stretch. Hoffman can play both left wing and center, and is four years younger than Stastny. Kostin and Thomas both have very high upside, but that doesn’t mean they will produce at the NHL level the way they are anticipated to.
Patrick Maroon: A Under the Radar Target
At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Maroon has the size and grit that the Blues have been lacking all season. In addition, Maroon is a St. Louis native, with strong ties to the area. In 2016-17, Maroon scored 27 goals, had 15 assists, and 95 penalty minutes on a surprise Edmonton Oilers team that nearly shocked the entire league.
Maroon’s cap hit is only $1.5 million – in comparison to Pacioretty and Hoffman, he’s not only much more affordable, but could easily be lured to stay for the right money. A package of Dmitri Jaskin (cap hit of $1 million) and a 2018 second-round pick could entice the Oilers enough to let go of Maroon at the deadline. With $500,000 of his contract currently retained by the Anaheim Ducks, it’s plausible that the Oilers would retain $500,000 of his contract as well to help move him for the rest of the season.
Blues Have Homework To Do
The St. Louis Blues need to add something up front to make a deep run in the playoffs. It’s within reason to believe they can re-adjust their focus and get back on track to catch the Winnipeg Jets, but the Blues are in a vulnerable position. Veterans like Paul Stastny, Kyle Brodziak, Scottie Upshall, and Carter Hutton are all unrestricted free agents after this season, and the window for this team to continue their success may be closing.
Max Pacioretty is without a doubt a reliable source of offense, and, teamed with Vladimir Tarasenko, they could form a lethal scoring tandem. Mike Hoffman has potential to be a lightning rod down the stretch. His goal-scoring ability is unquestionably a positive trait that the Blues could use on their second line, and his role on the power play could be invaluable. Patrick Maroon is a very intriguing option – his size, goal-scoring ability, and connection to the St. Louis area could prove to be the spark that the Blues have been needing as of late.
The trade deadline is approaching and with the rumor mill swirling, the Blues are in the midst of it all. The Blues need to make a splash in the market to get the energy back that was lost once Jaden Schwartz went on IR, and trading for one of these three players could do the trick.