It was interesting to hear the quotes from general manager Doug Armstrong right before the Blues' game against the Rangers Thursday night. It's pretty common for him to try and throw cold water on Blues fans' expectations that the team will make a splash on deadline day. Because even if he wants to make a big trade, they're hard to pull off and the Blues have no flexibility with the salary cap. Don't blame him. But we'll get to that after we dust off this old relic. It used to be a deadline day tradition, and it is again today.
Ladies and gentlemen, the GM Translator 2000EZ. It's been in mothballs for a few years, collecting dust next to a fax machine, an old Pong set and our eight track collection. But we got so much good information from Armstrong Thursday, we thought we'd put some soundbites into the old girl and see what she says.
First let's talk about captain David Backes. He'll be an unrestricted free agent. You might have forgotten that he actually signed an offer sheet with Vancouver when he became a restricted free agent several years ago. So it's not like he's married to St. Louis (he's married to a saint). There are homeless dogs and cats in other NHL cities, unfortunately, so there's a real risk he walks this summer and the Blues get nothing for him. Does that mean the Blues would consider trading him today? Nope. Armstrong told reporters if the Blues were in 10th or 11th place he would ask Backes to waive his no trade clause to go to a contender. And then he said this:
"We are that contending team. We are that team that is in the top part of the NHL. Trading David Backes for some form of a draft pick, I think, would be an injustice to the players in that room right now."
We take those words, and we slide the little slip of paper into the machine. After blowing into the little door three times like an old Nintendo game and hitting it three times, a faint burning smell can be detected. That's how you know it's working! It burps out this message:
"We are trying to win the Stanley Cup and you ask if I'm trading my captain? WTF. If we got a minor leaguer and a draft pick, we wouldn't win the Cup. So you'll thank me later, rubes. And besides, if I trade him I can't exclusively negotiate to pay him $6 million a year for six or seven years. And I'm not going to pass up that honor. Will be a career highlight to make that contract offer to Capt. Backes. After he signs, I will salute him. And probably cry a little. Thankfully, he's a good at hugs."
This machine may have been collecting dust like Chris Butler in the Scottrade press box, but she still knows how to do her thing. Let's try another.
"It's more economics than anything," Blues general manger Doug Armstrong said. "As a manager and as a management staff you're always saying this player would be a good fit for us and you can put him in there and jam him in and make it work. Right now it's more a math equation than anything to make the salaries work in our system."
Math can be hard, for sure. And there are a lot of zeroes in those big contracts. I've already put the words into the machine. There's a smell of a wet muskrat. And if you've ever smelled one, you know what I mean. Very distinctive. And here is the translation:
"When I say economics I mean we have no cap space. None. Our cap space is equal to the number of healthy backup goalies I would trust to start an NHL game right now. So don't blame me I can't trade for a scorer or three. However, that math equation looks something like this: Jay Bouwmeester's contract + Jori Lehtera's contract extension THAT HASN'T EVEN TAKEN EFFECT YET + Patrik Berglund's contract + Steve Ott's contract = us going to the playoffs with this team and only this team. Quite the system, don't you think?"
There's something unsaid here even beyond the translation. What Armstrong makes clear is that there's no consideration of trading a player off the NHL roster to create cap space. Because he needs all of them to win the Stanley Cup this season. So all those rumors about Kevin Shattenkirk going to Boston are just fiction. Unless of course Amstrong is lying.
So he's not going to make a trade. He's got some good reasons (at least to him). Maybe he should give a little more justification to not make a trade. How's this, EZ good buddy?
"I believe in those players in that room," he said. "If I can find a way to support them, I'm certainly going to try and do that. But my belief is that group in there, I really truly believe this is the year that for us to have success, our best players, they're not looking for assistance from outside. They know the responsibilities lie on their shoulders. I think to a man they are ready for that challenge."
There's a few things going on there. Words are in the machine. It burped. I mean, it started to burp the alphabet. The instructions on the machine clearly said to oil the machine with Guinness. Maybe I put too much in. And the smell this time, lilac. Very pleasant. Here are the words, and hey, a small fire. I'll put that out while you read:
"I picked this roster. All these guys I chose to draft, acquire or keep. This is my team. I believe in those players in that room. And if they need a backrub or a hug to get them through this, I will try and do that. But you know what, these guys can do this. They're pros. Since I've already covered that I can't add an impact player on this team because of my own doing, I'm going to declare this team a finished product. And if this team fails, if we for some ungodly reason lose in the playoffs, well, that's on the players. They know the responsibilities lie on their shoulders. Obviously it couldn't be my fault."
Happy deadline day. Don't get too bored.