As I figured it would, yesterday’s article didn’t sit well with some readers. I had planned to do a second top five today, just to show that I can acknowledge the good as well as the bad. Today I’ll look at the top five moves Doug Armstrong has made as the Blues general manager.
5. Trading for Vladimir Sobotka
Before Sobotka went to Russia, he was becoming a fan favorite. He was a little guy with a big heart. He played the game a little recklessly at times, but always at top speed. He could win face-offs, board battles, was a really solid two-way forward, and you could always count on the annual Sobotka/Matt Duchene fight.
The biggest issue folks had with Sobotka is that he was playing too much with Vladimir Tarasenko. Now of course, the biggest issue is that his ass is still over in Russia. He’s ‘tried coming back’ three years in a row now, and since it looks like his roster spot will be blocked moving forward, I wouldn’t be shocked if he re-signs in Russia. I don’t think Blues fans would be too upset.
However, despite all of his downfalls, the trade that brought Sobotka to St. Louis was a damn good one. The Blues acquired Sobotka from the Boston Bruins in exchange for David Warsofsky. Warsofsky has had a few cups of coffee in the NHL with the Bruins, New Jersey Devils, and Pittsburgh Penguins, but he is an AHL #1D at best.
4. Alex Pietrangelo’s Contract Extension
When Pietrangelo’s contract was up in 2013, everyone knew the 24 year old was the Blues undisputed number one defensemen, and would be a for a long time. When training camp was about to start on the 2013-14 season and Pietrangelo still wasn’t signed, a lot of fans were displeased with Armstrong. When the deal was announced - that Pietrangelo was signing a seven year, $45.5M deal ($6.5M per) - everyone relaxed. This deal was absolutely beautiful, even at the time it was signed. Pietrangelo still gets paid, but at $6.5M per year, he’s still one lowest paid number one defensemen in the league.
Here are a few comparable contracts:
- Kris Letang - 8 year, 7.25M per
- Brent Seabrook - 8 years, 6.875M per
- Erik Johnson - 8 years, 6m per
- P.K. Subban - 8 years, 9M per
3. David Rundblad to Ottawa for the 16th overall pick
In the 2010 NHL entry draft, the Blues selected forward Jaden Schwartz with the 14th overall pick. They then traded away David Rundblad, the 2009 17th overall pick to Ottawa for the 16th overall pick.
This was a smart move, as the Blues would draft current franchise forward Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko has had a pretty damn good career thus far in St. Louis, and will enjoy many more offensive years as the Blues’ best scoring forward.
This deal breaks down to a few things: the Blues really wanted to get Tarasenko, and Ottawa apparently did not want to draft Russians. Rundblad didn’t seem to fit in Ottawa, and he was later traded in a deal to bring Kyle Turris to the Senators.
The 2010 draft was a huge one for the Blues, getting both Schwartz and Tarasenko in the middle of the first round. This move was the right one by Armstrong.
2. Erik Johnson Trade
I remember this trade well, mainly because I was in Colorado when it happened. A group of buddies and I went to Colorado to go snowboarding for the weekend. We stayed up late one night watching the NBA dunk competition, then crashed not too much later than that. We woke up early the next morning to get out to the slopes before they were packed, and I just happened to check my phone to see a deal that no one saw coming. The Blues traded Erik Johnson, Jay McClement, and a 1st round pick to Colorado, in exchange for Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk, and a 2nd round pick.
Johnson wasn’t the same after blowing out his knee in a drunken golf cart accident. McClement, though one of the better defensive forwards in the league, was a fourth liner, and the first wound up being Duncan Siemens, who’s played one NHL game.
The Blues got back (at the time) a star power-forward in the making with Stewart, an offensive defensemen in Shattenkirk, and a 2nd. They used the second on Ty Rattie, who has 4 goals and 6 assists in 35 NHL games.
Stewart played well for the Blues for a while, though he never really developed into a star power-forward. Instead, he ended up being a big third line guy who can chip in 10-20 goals a year and is a good fighter. Shattenkirk was the real piece coming back for the Blues, as he became one of the best, if not the best, power play quarterback in the entire NHL.
Rattie is what he is.
Overall, this trade turned out really well for the Blues, and helped set them up with one of the best groups of RHD that the NHL has seen in years.
1. Vladimir Tarasenko’s Contract Extension
Every NHL team looks for that one player in the draft that can reshape their entire team. The Blues have two of those guys: Alex Pietrangelo on defense and Vladimir Tarasenko on offense. Tarasenko signed an eight year contract extension that kicked in last season. He’ll make an average yearly salary of $7.5M, which is pretty good for a guy who finishes around the top five in goal scoring per year.
Players who have finished around him in goal scoring the last few season are Rick Nash ($7.8M), Alex Ovechkin ($9.538M), Steven Stamkos ($8.5M), John Tavares (at, $5.5M, a steal), and Jamie Benn ($9.5M). Tavares will soon be making way more than his annual $5.5M, which will only make Tarasenko’s contract look even better.
Tarasenko is one of the best goal scorers in the game today. His shot, release, and accuracy are all elite. One complaint is that despite being SO good, he isn’t in the top ten offensively every year. Put Alex Ovechkin on the wing with Jori Lehtera as his center and see how far his points drop.
Ovechkin plays with Nicklas Backstrom. Patrick Kane plays with Artemi Panarin. Jeff Carter has Anze Kopitar. Brad Marchand has Patrice Bergeron. Tarasenko has Jori fucking Lehtera.
Now, I’m not saying that all of Tarasenko’s slumps are caused by Lehtera, because there are times it looks like Tarasenko is just coasting. It doesn’t help that Tarasenko plays with 3rd/4th line talent while the rest of the league’s goal scorers actually get competent forwards to play with.
There you go - a mixed bag. Sometimes Doug Armstrong’s moves are terrible, other times they are outstanding. Sadly, they started out outstanding and have gotten progressively worse as the years have moved on. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that he doesn’t fuck up this off-season by protecting Lehtera in the expansion draft.