National Hockey League | St. Louis Blues

Pick-Six: Shattenkirk Edition – Blues Fans’ Pain and Where Does the Team Go Now?

A stream of consciousness on local and national sports headlines.

1. If you look at the Kevin Shattenkirk trade in a vacuum…

The Blues traded Shattenkirk to Washington Monday.

…Then credit Doug Armstrong for doing what he had to do. Over the past few months, there’s been plenty of consternation about whether Armstrong should trade Shattenkirk or hold onto him given how wide open the Western Conference is this season. But at this point, we don’t know if the Blues can make a legitimate run in the postseason. We do know that Shattenkirk wasn’t coming back once he hit free agency this offseason. That was the only guarantee in this entire scenario. Shattenkirk was a goner, so Armstrong acquired a first-round pick this year, a conditional second-round pick in 2018, and a prospect in Zach Sanford. It was important for him to get future assets and not allow Shattenkirk to walk in free agency just like David Backes and Troy Brouwer did last summer.

2. That said, if you’re a Blues fan it’s hard not to be unsatisfied…

…By what Armstrong got in return for a top four defenseman, especially in wake of what the Wild gave up to acquire Martin Hanzal. In exchange for Hanzal and Ryan White, the Wild sent their 2017 first-rounder, along with a second-round pick in 2018, a conditional in 2019, and an AHL prospect in Grayson Downing. I fully believe Armstrong got the best deal he could right now. But he was also in this position to try and trade Shattenkirk because of 1) all the suspect contracts he handed out in years past that soaked up the team’s cap space and 2) because he wasn’t able to move him in the offseason. So yes, it’s good that Armstrong got something in return for Shattenkirk. Still, if you’re a Blues fan, it’s hard not to feel underwhelmed by the final return.

3. The other problem is that Blues fans know what Shattenkirk…

…Could have fetched had he not vetoed deals to the Lightning or Oilers. This isn’t on Armstrong. He tried to move Shattenkirk for a much bigger return than what he received from the Capitals but Shattenkirk didn’t want to play long-term for Tampa Bay or Edmonton. That’s his right. He earned his free agency and the opportunity to play wherever he wants to beyond this season. In the end, Armstrong made the best deal he could given the circumstances. It was what it is. It still stings for Blues fans, who can only envision what either Taylor Hall or Jonathan Drouin could have looked like wearing the Note.

4. The return for Shattenkirk was underwhelming but there are still multiple ways…

…For the Blues to come out of this situation like winners. One is that they hit on the first-round pick that they received from the Capitals. This year’s NHL draft is considered weak, but if the Blues happen to land the next David Pastrnak at the end of the first round then it’ll lessen the blow of trading off Shattenkirk. The other way this deal works out for the Blues is if Sanford lives up to his second-round potential. If he’s a better version of Patrik Berglund, then again, the Shattenkirk trade pill becomes easier to swallow. At the very least, Blues fans should become massive Washington Capitals fans in this year’s playoffs. If the Caps reach the Eastern Conference Finals, that conditional pick that the Blues received turns into a second-rounder.

5. Moving on from the Shattenkirk trade specifically, the next Blues question is…

…What’s the direction of the club? As a team, you’re either rebuilding, retooling, or all-in. The Blues clearly aren’t all-in because they just traded Shattenkirk. They’re also not rebuilding because their core is established. Are they re-tooling? One could make that argument but do we really know? Hindsight is always 20/20 but had the Blues moved on from Ken Hitchcock following the Western Conference Finals, committed to Mike Yeo full-time, and traded Shattenkirk in the offseason instead of at the deadline when the team was competing for a playoff spot, then perhaps all of this would be more palpable for fans. At least then, there would have been clear direction from the organization. Instead, the Blues have seemingly been caught in between building off what they did last year, and being a team in transition mode.

6. While we’ll have to wait and see what the Shattenkirk trade nets…

…The Blues, it’s clear the Capitals are winners. Given what the Lightning and Oilers offered the Blues for Shattenkirk, plus given what the Wild parted with in the Hanzal deal, this was a risk worth taking for the Capitals. They’ve tortured their fans for years by being on the cusp of winning big and if they don’t win this year, then they’ll have few top end draft picks to rebuild in the future. But with the Penguins and Rangers also believed to at least be interested in Shattenkirk, the Caps landed a top-four defensemen, gave up very little to do so, and prevented their top competition in the East from acquiring said player. It’s not surprising to see that the Caps are now 4/1 favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

More: Bernie – The Blues Are Now In a Full-Blown Transition. It Was Time, and Probably Overdue