The uneven play of the St. Louis Blues this weekend has created whispers in some circles that the team leadership may not be adequate to the task in front of them. Those whispers got louder this weekend thanks to comments General Manager Doug Armstrong made on KMOX.
Doug Armstrong on @KMOXSports: "We don't handle success well...For whatever reason, this group can't handle accolades well, or can't handle success well."— Chris Hrabe (@chrabe) January 21, 2018
If a shakeup is necessary, what better place to start than the captain? Alex Pietrangelo is only signed for two seasons beyond this one, and although he seems to be perpetually underrated by Blues fans, it would be reasonable to assess him as being just outside the uppermost echelon of NHL defensemen.
It should be noted that Pietrangelo’s contract contains a full no-trade clause, which may render this entire thought experiment moot. For that reason, along with the financial restrictions, it’s very hard to find a Pietrangelo trade that could be reasonably completed. Here are a few to consider. Your interpretation of “reasonable” may differ from mine.
Islanders receive: Alex Pietrangelo
Blues receive: Brock Nelson, Thomas Hickey, Kieffer Bellows, Calgary’s 2018 first round pick, NYI’s 2018 second round pick
Pietrangelo would represent a windfall for the Islanders, who may be seeking to buy out or otherwise move on from Johnny Boychuk at the conclusion of the season. With John Tavares seemingly destined to test unrestricted free agency, Pietrangelo could also be a calming, veteran presence who would help give the Islanders an identity.
Hickey is a depth defenseman with a measurable cap number who’s due to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
Nelson would be an immediate impact player on the Blues third line, having recorded at least 20 goals and 40 points in his last three seasons. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the season who will likely receive a moderate boost over the $2.5 million he’s earning this year.
Bellows, the Islanders’ first round pick in 2016, scored nine goals in seven games at the World Junior Championships for the Americans this year. He would represent yet another high end forward prospect for the Blues to either deal for additional assets or utilize moving forward.
The Islanders currently hold two picks in each of the first two rounds of this year’s draft as the result of the Travis Hamonic trade with Calgary. The Blues do not currently have a first round pick in 2018.
Flyers receive: Alex Pietrangelo
Blues receive: Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, Carter Hart, St. Louis’s 2018 first round pick, Philadelphia’s 2019 second round pick
Pairing Pietrangelo with Ivan Provorov on the blue line for years to come would have to be an intriguing idea for the Flyers, who are one of very few teams who could use Pietrangelo as piece to drive competition immediately while simultaneously having enough salary cap room to absorb him.
Konecny is a 20 year old center with electric skills and 20 points so far this season. Though he’s played mostly on the wing in his young NHL career, the Blues could view him as a core piece that could easily grow into Paul Stastny’s shoes and beyond into next season.
Laughton, similarly, could end up filling the role currently occupied by Kyle Brodziak. A first round pick in 2012, his skills appear best utilized as a bottom six center with strong defensive instincts and occasional scoring touch. The difference between Laughton and the half dozen players the Blues currently have in that role is that he appears to be good at it.
Hart was the starting goaltender for Canada at this year’s World Juniors, and one of the best goaltending prospects in junior hockey. If you’re a Blues fan who’s nervous about Jake Allen, having Hart in the system behind Ville Husso could be very valuable.
Senators receive: Alex Pietrangelo, Jordan Kyrou
Blues receive: Erik Karlsson
This was the thought that set this post in motion. Karlsson is a free agent after next season, and his play this year hasn’t been up to his previous standards. There are whispers that he’s struggling to recovery from an ankle injury that required major reconstructive surgery.
Still, when healthy, he’s undoubtedly the best defenseman in the world. He has two Norris Trophies. He’s made the postseason All Star first team three years running. He’s an unquestionably elite player who would massively shake up the landscape in St. Louis.
Do the Senators believe they can re-sign Karlsson (perhaps) ? Is it easier to absorb the public relations hit of trading him if Pietrangelo is accompanied by Kyrou (slightly) ? Are the Blues willing to gamble on giving up a year of control and one of the most exciting forward prospects to come through their system in years while simultaneously sending shockwaves throughout the organization (almost certainly not)?
The Blues will not be trading Alex Pietrangelo, but they could. If they did, it would shake the foundations of the franchise more dramatically than any move since the Erik Johnson/Kevin Shattenkirk swap with Colorado.
It would be an acknowledgement from the current administration that their plan isn’t working and a left turn is necessary.
Most observers could be convinced of the former. Fewer would concur with the latter. It does, however, make for fun day dreaming.