In the words of the Five Heartbeats, I got nothing but love for you, Doug Armstrong.
The St. Louis Blues General Manager performed the ultimate microphone drop on Sunday evening when he capped off a flurry of activity on the first day of NHL free agency with a trade for embattled Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly.
After signing former Blue David Perron and inking Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak to a deal earlier in the afternoon, Armstrong pulled out the bat phone and brought in the final piece, Mr. O’Reilly. I’m not sure how a Blues fan can possibly be upset with this guy from here on out. Just give up, crack open a cold one, and salute the guy on Independence Day this week.
It wasn’t that Armstrong just acquired a great piece in O’Reilly, who tallied 61 points playing with Ted Bundy and Mr. Jefferson last season-but the manner in which he did it.
Armstrong managed to do the following things in one trade:
- Trade away the horrible contracts of Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka.
- Hold onto top prospects Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, and Klim Kostin.
- Gain cap space in order to sign Robby Fabbri and Joel Edmundson to new deals.
It’s like Armstrong heard that fans thought he couldn’t do better than the Jori Lehtera/Brayden Schenn trade he pulled off last summer, and said, “hold my beer.”
The acquisition of O’Reilly makes the additions of Perron and Bozak look like sexy groomsmen at a hockey trade wedding. The Blues now have all kinds of line options for head coach Mike Yeo to jerk around with this summer before camp and preseason kicks off.
I don’t think I can tell you when the last time I was this excited for training camp and the first puck drop of the fall. Armstrong has created a fever pitch around the city of St. Louis that dwarfs the neighborhood baseball team for once. He was tired of getting the smaller pork steak at the table, so the guy stepped up for his hockey team.
What did he get? I told you a lot about O’Reilly on Saturday night, but let reiterate what the guy brings to the Blues for the crowd in the back: the answer to the Blues’ problems in more ways than one.
Let’s go over them.
- Power play rehab. O’Reilly has recorded 20+ power play points in four of the last five seasons. He scored 15 goals on the power play last season alone, which should give the lethargic Blues special teams unit a true boost. Just give it to O’Reilly, fellas.
- A true #1 or #2 center. Put him with Tarasenko and Schwartz or pair him up with Perron and Steen. As I noted in Saturday’s piece, O’Reilly makes the Blues’ lines deeper and more versatile. You aren’t scratching for a second center or asking players to try new things. You now have two new centers to put with Schenn and see which fits the best.
- A fighter’s mentality on the ice. O’Reilly is anti-soft. Players will want to give 110% next to this guy. An intangible you can’t teach in high schools and colleges is true grit and will on a sheet of ice to beat the other guy. Everything you hear about the guy leads down a road of someone who needs to win it all to feel satisfied. O’Reilly is hungry and not complacent.
- He’s good on the dot. O’Reilly won 59% of his faceoffs last seasons, which is better than Paul Stastny’s three season average of 55% with the Blues.
- He’ll take the shot. O’Reilly took 189 and 230 shots the past two seasons. Blues need more shooters who can put it on net.
When Armstrong signed a four year extension, some thought he would get complacent or try to take his foot off the gas pedal. But then there was the look on his face during a game against Chicago this past spring and the pacing in the press box during the season-ending loss to Colorado. Something seemed to go off in his head that more needed to be done.
The best comment from Armstrong after the trade was when he talked about asking Tom Stillman and the ownership group about the $7.5 million dollar yearly price tag on O’Reilly-and the room just saying go for it, essentially. If that doesn’t get you going, nothing will.
I gotta tell you. I’m pretty fired up about Blues hockey right now. Armstrong shut me and thousands of others up with ONE move. After shaking our heads and drowning our sorrows in “Perron is back, back again” Bloody Mary’s at brunch, Armstrong pulled off the deal of the year and flipped the table over.
Yes, Tage Thompson is gone and so are two quality draft picks, but a very good hockey player in his prime is coming to St. Louis. His name is Ryan. Be happy, folks. Be happy.
Well done, Doug. I’ve got nothing but love for you.