It must be the off-season, because Doug Armstrong is giving interviews about how he really wants to get another top six center for his team. Last season, the Blues accomplished this by trading for Brayden Schenn and sticking with Paul Stastny, but Stastny’s deadline trade to Winnipeg left the Blues with another top-six hole.
In an interview with Mike Zeisberger of NHL.com, Armstrong details his annual plan:
“Obviously we traded Stastny at the [NHL Trade Deadline]. We have Brayden Schenn there [at center]. We have Robert Thomas there, but is he ready to enter prime time as a second-line center? That’s a large chore to ask for a 19-year-old. Probably adding to our depth in the middle would be a goal. Alex Steen has played center before, Robby Fabbri has played center before, Jaden Schwartz has played center before, so if we have to circle back in, and the players we’re looking at don’t hit free agency or choose different paths, we’d have to adjust to that. But I would say center ice would be an area we’d look to do something in. But like we are at the Draft, in free agency we’re always looking at good players.”
Who’s available in free agency? Aside from Stastny, there’s a little-known player on the Islanders named John Tavares, and there’s also another guy out west named Joe Thornton. And, as Zeisberger points out, Tyler Bozak is also a pending UFA. Next year’s cap could be as high as $82 million next season, which would give the team the wiggle room to perhaps work a big name in there.
Of course, this all depends on how much money the team is willing to pay - and Tom Stillman’s ownership group has given the green light to spend to the cap before. It may also depend on what the Blues can do with huge contracts for declining players such as Jay Bouwmeester and Alexander Steen - two players whose decline Armstrong dodged in a later interview question.
Obviously, the Blues need another top six center. They also need to find a way to get past their current MO of having a top line and then a bunch of bottom nine guys. A couple functioning centers are swell, but they won’t fix all of the team’s issues.