After the Blues fell in the first round of the playoffs to a less talented Minnesota Wild team, General Manager Doug Armstrong made it clear he wanted to make changes to his roster, but didn’t want to simply trade a good Blues player for a draft pick.
If they were going to make a deal, they weren’t planning to experience a regression in talent. At worst, they wanted to maintain the status quo from a talent standpoint with a different personality.
It seems that with the trade of T.J. Oshie to Washington for Troy Brouwer, minor league goalie Pheonix Copley and a third round pick, the Blues were able to maintain the talent level for their team, and change the personality by bringing in a former Stanley Cup winner, with Brouwer having won with Chicago in 2010.
Oshie may ascend offensively with Washington by playing on a line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. He’s never been paired with such skillful playmakers in the past, and he may become more of a finisher with the Capitals. While David Backes has plenty of talent, setting up his linemates isn’t a particular strong suit.
Backstrom led the NHL with 60 assists last season, and has had at least 55 in five of his eight seasons, and had 40 helpers in the 48 games of the lockout-shortened season of 2013.
With all of the attention paid to Ovechkin, Oshie might be in a prime position to become a big-time finisher with the Caps. But we have to keep in mind, the Blues don’t have a player like Backstrom, so if T.J. does score more, it likely would not have happened in St. Louis.
In Brouwer, the Blues get a player they could have used in that Minnesota series.
He’s known for showing up and giving an honest effort every night, and he uses his 6-3, 214 pound frame to get into the crease and work in the nasty areas come playoff time. As a legitimate top-six forward, he should have enough sway in the dressing room to get other players going. It’s important to have a player that’s won a Cup and can vocalize what it takes to win one.
But, that player must be good and durable enough to hold others accountable because of his play. The Blues tried with former Cup winners Jamie Langenbrunner and Brenden Morrow, but they didn’t do enough on the ice to have their voice really matter off the ice.
The Blues got another young goalie in Copley in the deal. He’ll offer flexibility in case young Jordan Binnington doesn’t work for the team. When Brian Elliott went down to injury last season, the Blues found out quickly that Binnington wasn’t going to be the answer as a backup and had to sign Martin Brodeur.
There isn’t going to be a Brodeur available every year, so the more young goalies a team has available, the better off they’ll be in case of injury.
The Blues were also able to clear a bit of cap space to sign other players. After the deal, they brought in Kyle Brodziak as their fourth line center to replace Marcel Goc. With three goals and five assists in 27 career playoff games, he’s been nearly as productive as a fourth line player in the playoffs as Oshie has (5-4-9 in 30 games) as a top line player.
They also re-signed goalie Jake Allen to a two year deal and re-signed promising right wing Dmitrij Jaskin and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo.
Did the team add the speed that Coach Ken Hitchcock said they needed?
No, but the Blues do have a few fast young players in their system like Ty Rattie, Robby Fabbri and Ivan Barbashev. At some point in the season, the Blues will be able to employ those players and dramatically increase their team speed.
The big off-season move for the Blues is still on the horizon. They have to sign restricted free agent Vladimir Tarasenko, but there are limits to what they can give him. The cap for next season is $73 million, and the Blues have about $60 million committed. The CBA rules that no player can receive more than twenty percent of a team’s cap, so the most any player can make next season would be $14.6 million. The Blues can’t and won’t go there.
The comparables for Tarasenko are few and far between. Perhaps Tyler Seguin ($6 million) and Jamie Benn ($5.75 million) of Dallas are the best. Seguin exploded to score 37 goals in his fourth and fifth seasons, and at 23 is the same age as Tarasenko. Benn is 25 and also arrived as a goal scorer in years four and five.
There isn’t a player in the league with Tarasenko’s three years of experience that shares his production. The guidepost for the Blues should be a long term deal in that $5.75-$6 million range. If the Blues can get that done, they’ll have an interesting team for 2015-2016.
But, interesting isn’t what Blues fans want.
Unless the team makes substantial changes to the veteran core and the most prominent voices on the team are Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk, they’re just shuffling chairs on the deck of the Titanic.
The group of Oshie, Backes, Alex Steen and Patrik Berglund has had plenty of opportunity. It’s time for Armstrong to make more changes to that group, or the Blues won’t ever catch the Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks.
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