The St. Louis Blues have revitalized their season unexpectedly, and currently hold the third spot in the Central Division, securely in control of their playoff destiny. This turnaround was unexpected as recently as a month ago, and it has created a lot of questions as to what the Blues should do at the trade deadline.
While we cannot know all the answers to those questions until Monday afternoon after the deadline has passed, there’s one thing the Blues should do for certain: protect their prized prospect, Jordan Kyrou, in any trade negotiations. Unless general manager Doug Armstrong is making a trade that changes his team for the future, the speedy winger needs to remain with the Blues.
Jordan Kyrou: AHL All-Star
Though Kyrou has not yet found his stride at the NHL level in limited playing time, he is having an incredible season with the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League (AHL). With the Blues’ affiliate, he has been a point per game player, scoring 36 in 36. Of those points, 14 have been goals, which makes him the team leader in both categories, despite playing significantly fewer games than some of his teammates.
The fact that he has found such success in the minor leagues suggest that he is primed and ready for the transition to the NHL, if the Blues can find playing time for him. In limited minutes, Kyrou already has three points in 16 games with the Blues, including his first NHL goal, which he scored on Dec. 9 against the Vancouver Canucks.
Kyrou’s performance this season hasn’t gone unnoticed. He was selected to the AHL All-Star team, and performed well in the skills competition, flashing his impressive speed. It is that speed, as well as his vision and hockey-IQ, which make him such a highly rated prospect. But those are also the skills that will make him highly sought after by general managers trying to negotiate with Armstrong at the deadline.
The Blues’ Deadline Needs
There’s no doubt that opposing GMs will be asking about Kyrou’s availability, but the Blues need to analyze these requests carefully. Given their recent hot streak, it’s tempting for St. Louis to trade futures to plug holes. But what are those holes?
The Blues could use secondary scoring, and were heavily linked to forward Ryan Dzingel before the Ottawa Senators traded him to the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday evening. In no way is Kyrou worth surrendering for secondary scoring, particularly if that player is on an expiring contract.
Another area of need for St. Louis might be the left side of their defense. The Blues have a number of defenders playing on that side, with Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson, Vince Dunn, and, when healthy, Carl Gunnarsson. But none of those players quite fit the mold of a true No. 1 defenseman anymore. If the Blues could move for such a defender, particularly one who could quarterback a power play, it might be worth trading Kyrou, but again, that player would need to be on term.
Of course, the question remains whether the Blues are willing to enter the playoffs relying on Jordan Binnington in net. He’s been red-hot, but he’s inexperienced, and in the playoffs, that can be a liability. For the Blues to move Jake Allen’s salary and pick up another goaltender, it might cost Kyrou, but is it worth it to pay that price, or is Binnington the better option?
Only in a “Hockey Trade”
If the Blues are considering trading Kyrou, they need to tread lightly. As a team that is constantly in search of added speed, Kyrou is a special prospect for their future. To trade him for a rental would be a mistake, even a rental of the caliber of Artemi Panarin or Mark Stone.
If a trade arises where the Blues could acquire a player with significant term, only then should Kyrou even be close to on the table. Perhaps they could work out a deal to acquire Panarin or Stone on an extension (though it’s believed Panarin would not want to sign a long-term deal in a city like St. Louis). Or perhaps Armstrong could work a creative deal for a player whose name isn’t publicly on the market. In that case, a trade of Kyrou might be tolerable, though they would still be trading a special prospect.
There remains a third option: using Kyrou to bolster the current NHL squad. If the Blues are looking for secondary scoring, why not give some playing time to the prospect who leads their AHL team in goals? Kyrou has proved he can cut it at the AHL level, perhaps it’s time for him to show it in the NHL.
We may find that answer out sooner rather than later, as it was announced late on Saturday that Kyrou had been called up to replace Brayden Schenn, who was moved to the IR. Expect Kyrou to return to the lineup Sunday, as the Blues have a number of injuries, a flu bug, and are playing the second game of a back-to-back. If Kyrou performs in the NHL like he has lately in the AHL, he’ll show just why the Blues are wise to hold onto him with both hands.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.