NHL Draft: Blues Remain Silent in First Round

After seeing the return on some trades during Day 1 of the 2015 NHL Draft, St. Louis Blues fans should remain hopeful a favorable deal could still come across general manager Doug Armstrong.

However, he may have already passed on that spectacular trade option.

Such is the the life of those that choose to watch the NHL Draft every season. You always see your team’s GM talking, but it rarely materializes into a big trade.

Sometimes, though, we see big trades that were turned down. Just three years ago, we learned that the Columbus Blue Jackets refused an offer to receive the entire New York Islanders’ draft.

This year, there were multiple trades that could be deemed one sided. The first big blockbuster occurred in the morning hours, as the Ottawa Senators moved goaltender Robin Lehner and center David Legwand to the Buffalo Sabres for the 21st overall pick. Lehner, a 23-year old who fell out of the Senators’ long-term goaltending plans, and Legwand, a 34-year old journeyman who put up 27 points in 80 games last season, would likely not have fit in the Senators’ plans for next season anyway. For Buffalo, the move only makes sense if GM Tim Murray truly believes Lehner will be his team’s No. 1 netminder for the foreseeable future. That’s a notion the Senators did not seem to share.

Robin Lehner was traded to Buffalo on Friday (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)
Robin Lehner was traded to Buffalo on Friday (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

Another controversial trade came a few hours later, when the Los Angeles Kings traded goaltender Martin Jones, defense prospect Colin Miller and the 13th overall pick to the Boston Bruins for Milan Lucic — yes, the 27-year old who scored 18 goals and 44 points in 81 games last season. The two-time 60-point scorer (2010-11 and 2011-12) is also a unrestricted free agent next summer, after receiving $6.50 million this upcoming season. Due to a cleverly drafted contract signed with Boston, his cap hit is just $3.25 million (the Bruins retained $2.75 million in the trade).

Although Lehner could be the answer in goal and Lucic could be the final piece to another playoff appearance — that’s a lot of what ifs — it seems the payment for NHL roster players was outrageously high on Friday.

Was this the time for Armstrong to capitalize on a roster shakeup?

The Blues GM admitted that he was involved in discussions, but nothing materialized. He was wanting to make “hockey trades” that improved his current roster, not “to win tomorrow.”

Judging by Buffalo’s return on their aforementioned trade, it’s conceivable the Blues could have received a first round pick, if that’s what Armstrong wanted. You have to believe that a combo of Brian Elliott and T.J. Oshie would be far more enticing than what the Sabres received.

However, as St. Louis Post-Dispatch beat writer Jeremy Rutherford pointed out earlier in the day, simply moving a player like Oshie would create too big a hole in the team’s lineup for next season. The Blues are in a win-now mentality; whether you agree with the mindset or not, a first round pick, unless it’s at No. 1 or 2, is not going to help in 2015-16.

Like all GMs who watched their teams bow out in the first round, Armstrong is looking for a fix that satisfies needs for next season and beyond. If Lucic was available at a price Armstrong was willing to pay, chances are that the Blues were in the running. I would hope, though, that the Blues management team had more sense than selling the farm to acquire a player who gives them a slight upgrade … again.

Doug Armstrong gambled once with a Ryan Miller trade. It didn't end well. (David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)
Doug Armstrong gambled once with a Ryan Miller trade. It didn’t end well. (David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)

Simply stated, the Blues were not willing to part ways with valuable future assets for a mid-level player and, vice versa, did not feel it necessary to trade a roster player for a draft pick.

Day 2, which will see Rds. 2-7 Saturday morning, could be a different story. With teams no longer desperately looking to move up (unless a potential pick strikes their fancy and they don’t possess a selection for awhile), there are usually multiple roster trades that occur. The Blues are no stranger, as last year defenseman Carl Gunnarsson was brought aboard, and winger Evgeny Grachev — who never panned out with the big club — joined the team three years before that.

Then, the NHL hits free agency. Let’s not forget, Game 1 of the 2015-16 season is 103 days away. There is an entire summer ahead for the roster to get fine-tuned for next season.

Hoping for immediate, impactful changes to the lineup is not an unrealistic reaction after the team lost in the first round for the third consecutive season. However, it is important to wait until the first puck drop in the following season before making harsh judgments.If the value was not there, the value was not there.

Yet, if it’s revealed Armstrong was offered a team’s entire draft for Oshie or David Backes, ill feelings would be more than acceptable for a change-hungry fanbase.