If you thought the current state of the St. Louis Blues couldn’t get any worse, think again. The team announced that they will be without veteran defensemen Jay Bouwmeester for the remainder of the 2017-18 season.
After a horrid month of February where the Blues went 4-9 with a 7-game losing streak, general manager Doug Armstrong decided to trade veteran center Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets. The Blues retained half of Stastny’s $7 million cap hit and received prospect Erik Foley, a conditional 2018 first-round pick, and a conditional 2020 fourth-round pick. The trade may turn out to be another savvy move by Armstrong but will most certainly make things tougher for the Blues to make a playoff push.
The Blues Have Been Here Before
The move is utterly similar to the Kevin Shattenkirk trade that took place exactly one year and one day prior. The Shattenkirk deal was seemingly the Blues way of folding up their tent and calling it a season, but the outcome was the opposite.
On February 1, the Blues hired Mike Yeo to replace Ken Hitchcock as their new head coach. Yeo inherited a team that had lost five of their last six, carried an underwhelming 24-21-5 record and a group that was barely hanging onto the second wild-card position in the Western Conference. Yeo took the Blues from 28th to first in goals against per game, and led them to a 21-8-2 record, finishing as one of the hottest teams in the NHL going 7-1-2 in their final 10 games. The Blues advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs losing to the eventual Western Conference Champion Nashville Predators.
The Blues have fallen to sixth in the Central Division after an impressive start to the campaign and compared to last year may have an even bigger hole to dig out of this season. The good news is, the club is only two games out of the wild-card spot and has been through these things before, but the loss of Stastny and now Bouwmeester plus grinder Scottie Upshall (who will also more than likely miss the remainder of the season) may prove to be too deep of a hole for even Yeo to lead the Blues out of.
Bouwmeester’s Time With the Blues Over?
Bouwmeester suffered the injury in Saturday’s game against the Dallas Stars, and is expected to be on the shelf for the next four to six months.
The 34-year-old has had an injury-riddled 2017-18 campaign, after he missed the first 21 games with a fractured left ankle that occurred during a shot block attempt in training camp on September 17. Bouwmeester has missed several games since due to various ailments including the hip injury.
With only one year remaining on a five-year $27 million deal that Bouwmeester signed in August of 2013 his days wearing a blue and gold sweater could be numbered. The Blues will most likely look for suitors to take on the veteran heading into the start of the 2018-19 season if Bouwmeester is willing to waive his no-trade clause or they could look to cut ties and buyout his $5.4 million cap hit with or without a playoff appearance.
Schmaltz’ Time to Shine
24-year-old Jordan Schmaltz currently looks to be the most likely candidate to take over for Bouwmeester.
With Jay Bouwmeester lost for the season, next man up is Jordan Schmaltz: "I think for me, the time is now. I've got to assert myself and prove that I can play in this league." #stlblues— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) March 5, 2018
The Blues haven’t announced any call-ups so Schmaltz will slide back in as the sixth defenseman. The former first-round draft pick has not yet lived up to his billing that he carried headed into the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Schmaltz has 2 points in 16 career NHL games played. He will be paired with Robert Bortuzzo and the duo will work as the third defensive unit. With only 16 games remaining, it’s now or never for the Blues if they plan on playing postseason hockey.
The Blues have the fourth longest NHL playoff appearance streak as they have not missed the postseason since the 2010-11 season.