ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong hasn't ruled out the possibility of exploring the market for another body to fill a top six position in the absence of Vladimir Tarasenko.
Tarasenko is expected to be re-evaluated in April, 2020, but nothing is certain.
As the Blues’ carousel of injuries continues, Armstrong has made blunt statements about possibilities ahead of the NHL trade deadline on February 24, although he isn’t typically known for making huge moves before a trade deadline in recent seasons.
In the 2017-2018 season the Blues had talent, but there wasn’t enough top-tier talent to give the Blues confidence in securing a playoff position.
Armstrong made the decision to trade forward Paul Stastny before the deadline, who had been a veteran presence with the team for four years. In the final year of Stastny’s contract in 2018, he was traded to the Winnipeg Jets for Erik Foley, a conditional first-round pick in 2018, and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2020.
The Blues ended up missing the playoffs by one point.
Armstrong went to work in the following off-season, bringing in Ryan O'Reilly, Tyler Bozak and Pat Maroon. Halfway through the season this impeccable roster on paper wasn’t fanning out to be what it looked like. The Blues sat at last place in the NHL. Once Blues goalie Jordan Binnington made his appearance, and head coach Craig Berube was at the helm, things began to turn around.
The Blues went on a franchise record 11-game win streak right before the trade deadline, and Armstrong felt confident. Everything went silent. Talks were off the table, and the Blues went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Now, the Blues sit at third place in the NHL behind only the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins. Yet, Armstrong doesn't appear quite ready to rest on his laurels.
Perhaps it speaks to Armstrong’s knowledge of the current roster, and his view on what it would take to win back-to-back Stanley Cup titles.
Options on the market
Who’s out there that could give the Blues an even bigger step in domination?
Let me preface this by saying none of these potential options would fully make up for the absence of Vladimir Tarasenko who you can count on for nearly 30 goals per year. Here are some of the big top six winger names on the market ahead of the trade deadline.
Talk about an assist generator. Tatar currently plays on the Montreal Canadiens' top line and has 17 goals, and 44 points this season. At 29 years old, his contract isn’t as pricey as some others who haven’t generated near the same numbers. He’s not a UFA this summer, but there’s a chance Montreal would look for value before he hits the big 3-0.
The New York Rangers may not move this one, but the potential is there. Kreider can do it all. He possesses speed, agility, and can score. He has 17 goals, and 32 points this season with the Rangers. He’s been a top-liner in New York as a left winger.
Palmieri currently plays as a right winger for the New Jersey Devils. His 5’11” frame doesn’t make him a big body player, but he has a great shot and serves as a solid force on the Devils power play. On top of it, he’s a natural right winger, which fits well in Tarasenko's absence. The 28-year-old has tallied 17 goals, and 32 points this season. He has one year left on his contract, which could work well for a Blues team looking to fill a gap.
Zucker has been a speedy force for the Minnesota Wild. He has three years left on his contract, but the Wild haven’t been opposed to the idea of a trade. Zucker has scored 14 goals, with 28 points this year. He’s also 28 years old, but may be looked at by a team with more of a long-term motive.
Yes, he would be coming from the Chicago Blackhawks. Saad has been spending time on the Blackhawks second line this season where he’s tallied 13 goals and 21 points. He’s coming off an ankle injury from the All-Star break, but has proved consistent play at this level at the age of 27. He would bring a bigger body style of play to the ice, like Zucker, and has a two-way hockey mindset.
Toffoli has been playing in the top six with an L.A. Kings team who hasn’t unleashed his potential yet. Toffoli is 27 years old and has tallied 13 goals and 28 points on an offensive live very much unlike the Blues. He has a snipe for a shot and could provide an interesting angle to the Blues structure. He would play his right side, which is of interest.
After a six day break the Blues didn’t quite get the start to the second half they were hoping for Monday. Blues goalie Jake Allen made 23 of 25 saves, but it still wasn’t enough as Vancouver went on to win it 3-1.
Blues forward Zach Sanford was the lone scorer for St. Louis. Sanford now has six goals on the season, but typically isn’t the only forward to net one in a regular season game.
On Tuesday the Blues had a chance to rebound in their second of back-to-back games. This time it was defense that didn’t show up. Blues goalie Jordan Binnington allowed four goals, but luckily the Blues also scored four times in regulation to push the game into overtime. Binnington was in luck, though. The game was forced into a shootout, in which Binnington faced a familiar shot from Calgary forward Matthew Tkachuk.
The NHL All-Star skills competition came in handy. Tkachuk was the only player to score on Binnington in the save streak competition on Friday. Binnington used that experience to his advantage, and made sure that didn’t happen twice.
The Blues are back in action Friday facing NHL superstar Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers on their road trip through Canada.