This week's Trending Topics over at Puck Daddy has many things to agree with in it. Ryan Lambert is correct when he says that the trade that sent T.J. Oshie to the Washington Capitals isn't probably the earth-shattering move that some expected from the Blues this year. It hasn't made them demonstrably better, though the addition of Pheonix Copley is a very nice touch that is overlooked.
[T]he big move for St. Louis this summer is obviously swapping beloved-but-overrated TJ Oshie for Troy Brouwer.
To what end this trade was made is uncertain, because say what you want about Oshie — and the St. Louis media has been more than happy to do so since his departure — but he wasn't what you'd call the problem for this team. Perception? Yeah, that was a problem, because everyone thought he was better than he is (a high-end second-line guy), and frankly you'd rather have him at $4.175 million for the next two years than Brouwer's contract, which expires after next year, or, say Patrik Berglund's. This obviously comes with the caveat that Berglund probably doesn't get you as much in trade as Oshie does, but if the return is Brouwer, maybe don't even bother.
The reason that Berglund is still with us isn't because of his limited NTC, it's because he wouldn't've gotten the Blues the return Oshie did, even if that return was less than stellar as far as current on-ice talent goes. Berglund certainly wouldn't've landed the Blues a pick and a prospect along with an on-ice player. Lambert does a decent job breaking down the deal, along with his discussion of Tarasenko's contract, and those aren't the parts of the column that raised an eyebrow with me.
I'll leave the assertion that the Blues lack good goaltending to another post or perhaps a comment-section discussion. I'll also skip discussion over Lambert not really addressing Ken Hitchcock. What did make me raise an eyebrow was this:
It's worth noting, though, that it's reasonable to assume Dmitrij Jaskin will be the one who slots into Oshie's top-six spot and not necessarily Brouwer, because Jaskin is seen as having a decently high ceiling and maybe he just needs the shot. His goals-per-60 numbers are already comparable with those of Oshie and Berglund's for their careers, though obviously his usage was, shall we say, favorable.
Lambert is missing something, though: Backes may not spend a lot of time at center this season, and Hitchcock likes the big lines. From this week's Blues Chat with Jeremy Rutherford:
The Blues have indicated that Backes will play some right wing this year. Here's what that hinges on: Is Jaskin ready to step up to a top-six role and/or Ty Rattie and Robby Fabbri NHL-ready. (By the way, I didn't mean to exclude Rattie earlier. He's got a good shot to make the team, but the question was about Fabbri). If those guys are ready to take a step, then we will see more of Backes at RW. Will Stastny be his center? Not sure yet. I think Hitch is going to look at Schwartz-Stastny-Backes/Brouwer together and Steen-Lehtera-Tarasenko in camp.
Note well that last part. Backes' move to right wing leaves the door open for Paul Stastny, not Dmitrij Jaskin. Would the addition of Jaskin on a line with Schwartz and Stastny make for scoring chances? Absolutely, but it also, in theory, lacks that big body that Hitch seems to want on the top line in Backes.
Jaskin also had 13 goals and five assists in 54 games, last season, which is good for .33 PPG. Backes had 26 goals and 32 assists in 80 games, good for about .73 PPG. The highest TOI Jaskin saw was 17:07, on February 28th against Edmonton. Hitch seems to be comfortable playing Jaskin on that third line.
Jaskin is an excellent young player with a ton of upside who may very well find himself playing alongside Stastny and Schwartz at times this year, especially after his success with Stastny as a center last season. But as far as him being a regular top six guy, it's difficult to think that Hitchcock will move Backes down to the third line in a situation other than one of his "shake things up and see what works" moments in a game where the Blues are lagging.
The third line to start the season will probably be Jaskin-Berglund-Brouwer, which, if Berglund has an up season, could make for an interesting time. It will also mean that Brouwer's production will not be at Ovechkin Linemate levels, but I think that's something that we all expected anyway.