St. Louis Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong surprised everyone last summer when he made a pair of stellar trades during the NHL Entry Draft. By trading Jori Lehtera and Ryan Reaves for younger players, he was building the future for the Blues. It was unpredictable and surreal due to the fact that Armstrong usually doesn't make stellar moves or signings.
After dealing Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets today around noon, Armstrong and the Blues closed up shop. Perhaps they were simply unable to sell bad contracts carried by overrated players to other teams.
Before you get too mad about Army being unable to move overpaid forwards Patrik Berglund ($3.8 million) or Vladimir Sobotka ($3.5 million), think about the way you would sell those players to other General Managers.
"Hey, so I have these two guys who have disappointed us with their production and are nearing 30 years of age, but you know with a fresh coat of paint and new jersey, they could blossom into something wonderful for your franchise."
Rival General Managers would tell Armstrong to get serious. As much as fans would like to see another team take Sobotka and Berglund contracts off the Blues' hands, it's just not likely or smart.
A pair of deals that follows other unwise Armstrong signings and extensions. I don't know why he suddenly wants to hand out long-term extensions with no-trade clauses. Two great deals last summer can't erase many irresponsible decisions.
Jay Bouwmeester is a durable defenseman, but good luck seeing him be of much use for the Blues next season as he soaks up a lot of cash on the salary cap. Carl Gunnarsson isn't a bad player, but no one would scream if he was traded. He's looked like a deer lost in the headlights on at least two goals this past week.
Armstrong chose Jake Allen over fan favorite Brian Elliott two years ago, handing the young kid a four-year extension that took many by surprise. How does that contract look right now? Allen can't win a game right now, doesn't get much from the players in front of him, and lacks confidence.
How about handing an aging Alex Steen a four-year extension that will run through Steen's 37th birthday? Steen is declining, spent the first half of the season in ghost mode, and won't improve next year.
Stastny's contract wasn't a crowd pleaser due to lack of production and injuries, but it was expiring this summer, so Armstrong flipped it for a first-round draft pick, young prospect Erik Foley, and a conditional fourth-round pick. It was a very good deal, but when isolated there wasn't enough movement on trading day to impress fans. They want more and deserve the action.
For all the people who want Mike Yeo's head on the chopping block, remember he's only been the head coach for 13 months. Is it safe to say this team even belongs to him yet or looks like his club? The answer is no. Armstrong brought in Yeo to back up Ken Hitchcock before the Hall of Famer moved on, so quitting on him this quickly wouldn't look wise.
This is Armstrong's mess. He made this bed, so it's only right that he lies in it. For every wise decision he's made (like letting Troy Brouwer walk two years ago to fizzle away with Calgary), the GM has made two bad ones.
There was absolutely no need to hand Berglund a five-year extension a year ago. I don't care how many goals the Swede had scored over the past two months. Five years for a third liner at nearly $4 million annually is not smart. Berglund should have been traded in the offseason coming off his best season in years. He got hurt late in the summer and was stuck here.
Armstrong even gave Berglund a partial no-trade clause for a reason that will never be found.
Sobotka left the Blues with one year left on his deal for the KHL, spending two years overseas. He comes back and Armstrong rewards him with a three-year extension worth $10 million. Why?!
The Blues aren't hitting rock bottom, but they sure are close. They haven't lost six games in a row since the 2013-14 season and several teams in front of them for playoff contention have games in hand over St. Louis. The Blues have lost four of five at home while being shut out twice in a row. It's getting ugly, but Armstrong couldn't pull another miracle out of his cellphone.
Is there a plan? Youth. The Blues have young talent in Tage Thompson and Vince Dunn, who both should play top minutes the rest of the way. There's burgeoning offensive firepower like Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, and Klim Kostin down in the minors. Foley, the prospect acquired in the Stastny trade looks to be impressive as well.
Armstrong needs to establish what his plan is moving forward because that will only help Yeo and his coaching staff shape the roster and get this team triggered to excel not only for playoff participation but for Stanley Cup collection. As it stands, the Blues aren't winning a Cup anytime soon without a major correction. That's acceptable if you are rebuilding, but not if you are treading water. Let's not waste Tarasenko's prime years.
I'd be impressed if Armstrong is able to move Sobotka or Berglund this summer without taking a hit.
Blues owner Tom Stillman isn't completely innocent here either. He approves all these outrageous Armstrong deals and extensions. He also handed Armstrong a four-year extension that kicks in next season. No one is without fault here, but this is Armstrong's production.
He has four years to get it right. Imagine an architect who keeps designing faulty rooms that don't go with a house's overall design, thus hindering the completion of the project. It's self-sabotage, folks.
Excuse me while I go pour a stiff drink.
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