ST. LOUIS — Marco Scandella's arrival just two months ago was met with mixed reviews.
Some saw him as a boring rendition of the lefty without a lot of scoring punch. Others liked his versatile skill set and defensive smarts. He was a free agent to be and the Blues took the chance by offering two draft picks for a moderate addition. Since Jay Bouwmeester was playing good hockey before his unfortunate health scare this past winter, his replacement had to be quickly impressive and equally effective.
Flash forward 11 games and it was a different tune. Scandella fit in perfectly with the Blues, matching up with Colton Parayko to form the perfect defensive duo. It's one that provided some offensive punch along with blue line craftsmanship.
Coming over from his second team of this season, Scandella didn't have a huge penchant for offense. He had 11 goals back in the 2014-15 season, but hasn't scored more than six in a season since.
Sure enough, Scandella amassed just a single assist in those 11 games, but he was more than useful at the other end of the season. He could operate in the defensive, neutral and offensive zone. His 200 foot game was secure and he could handle the puck with command and care. Scandella offered a mixture of Bouwmeester/Carl Gunnarsson shot sizzle, but rarely made an unwise move with the puck. One could say he was more of a preventer than a provider. All in all last season, with time also spent in Buffalo and Montreal, Scandella was a +14. A significant rebound from his previous two seasons, when he was a combined -28.
And perhaps that is the secret poison of the deal: What if Scandella has an off year like more like a little less than half of his ten year career? At 30 years old, he isn't exactly a spring chicken, even if he has been than durable during his NHL career.
The deal Thursday was four years right around $13.1 million. The average annual value is $3.275 million, which sits Scandella right around what Bouwmeester received for this current season, most likely his last. So it's perfectly feasible to assume Scandella was always meant to be the older Bouwmeester's replacement if he panned out during what was previously referred to as a playoff stretch run. The Blues had a need and addressed with a player who could stick around.
I don't think the deal is unwise. Is it a little generous for a guy with his mixed bag the past four years? Arguably so, but I would venture to guess the duration of the deal will prove Scandella to be a nice fit here. Vince Dunn is a solid player but one more built for offense, so another southpaw is smart. Maybe this makes Carl Gunnarsson more expendable or it'll push the team to get creative with the rest of their roster heading into 2020-21.
The changing landscape in the NHL due to the COVID-19 pandemic solidifies the fact that next season may not feature a whole season if the league does in fact get underway this summer to finish the paused season.
The salary cap could be different, which will feature a general shift of priorities among both general managers and player agents. Hit pause if you actually think Alex Pietrangelo will surely get the monstrous extension he desires after this global struggle.
This way, you collect another skill player on defense for four more seasons and deepen the defensive bullpen on this team just in case a future moves includes a vital piece. Doug Armstrong is doing what he can during the downtime, retaining Sammy Blais this week as well as Scandella. The big elephant in the room will be Pietrangelo's future, but that may care of itself when everything else shakes out off the ice.
For the time being, let's applaud Scandella's new contract and finally claim the trade was a success. With aging defenseman and the current mindset of the National Hockey League, finding a player that fits your system to imperative to winning. That's what this guy does for the Blues. He fits into Craig Berube's system, thus flourishing like never before.
11 games isn't a sample size you generally enrich with a four year deal, but there are exceptions. Say hello to a younger Jay Bouwmeester with better knees.