Most General Managers would be afforded some relaxation after helping his team win a Stanley Cup, but not Doug Armstrong.
The man must have plundered the souls of St. Louis many times last season during the Blues’ rise, fall, and rise campaign. The high hopes, disastrous depths, and unbelievable surge still sits on the surreal side a few months later, which is why I didn’t expect a HUGE trade notification to pop up onto my phone Tuesday afternoon.
The Blues had a preseason game in a matter of hours, but Armstrong was setting the table not only for the 2019-20 regular season, but the next half-decade.
By acquiring All Star defenseman, Justin Faulk, Armstrong readied the Blues for an all-in rush this coming season as well as arming the next few seasons. He also protected himself against one of the biggest decisions this team has seen since Brett Hull left for Dallas.
Alex Pietrangelo is the heart and soul of this team. I don’t care what you complain about in regards to a stretch of games or whether or not he pleases your Captain-savvy soul, but he’s a beast. You’re wrong if you think it’s standard practice to let him go. He played 25+ minutes throughout the entire playoffs, put up points, made Brad Marchand look incredibly dumb, and gives you a 200 foot game few blue line defenders can promise.
BUT ... he is a free agent at the end of the season, and there’s little certainty he will be here next fall. In this game, you can’t mix loyalty with the rough edge of business without being betrayed. They go together like cold breakfast and a bad mood. Petro will take a look at the market, and come back with an offer the Blues may think about refusing. It’s quite possible, which is why I think Armstrong wasn’t just looking to acquire Faulk, but extend him handsomely as well. Work with what you can control now instead of hedging your bets later.
I’d retain Pietrangelo. He turns 30 in January, but I don’t care. There’s not an ounce of slip in his game, and he anchored the run last spring. The Blues don’t make it through four rounds without him. Whether it’s $8 or $9 million, I’d give him that money if I were Armstrong. The cash gained in Jay Bouwmeester and Brayden Schenn’s exit handles his raise alone. It is also possible that the Blues can trade Jake Allen and/or Alexander Steen between now and next July, even if the latter will be more of a magic trick.
There will be money to bring Pietrangelo back, even if the overload of righthanded sticks on defense will be an interesting task to take on for Craig Berube. What pairings do you run with in Pietrangelo, Faulk, Colton Parayko, and Robert Bortuzzo in tow next season? That’s a good problem to have if you ask me. Having a high volume of defensemen is like having a nice group of starting pitchers in baseball. They can fall easily, so keep the flexibility in check.
That’s a problem for next summer’s end though. Let’s focus on the win it all again right fucking now package that’s taking the ice this October. The Blues are now armed to the teeth on the blue line and on the wings. They have young guns in Robert Thomas and Vince Dunn, and now veteran hands like Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, and Pietrangelo running around. Schenn may price himself out next spring, but he helps provide a depth return at center that will help the Blues not rush along too many younger talents.
Think about it. The Blues are drunk right now on defense and center depth. Berube could throw these names into a hat and come up with some wicked pairings. The top 9 and top 6 are stacked, and I don’t the NHL is ready for another St. Louis ass-kicking. News Bulletin: It just stopped back in June.
It’s time to shatter more dreams of players who have a rat-like face. It’s that time to throw your weight into the Central Division’s testy strength and see where you fall. I thought the Blues were capable of making another run for the Cup before the Faulk acquisition, but now they are looking even more ruthless and swagger-heavy.
Armstrong isn’t satisfied with one Cup; he wants to see those names scratched onto that trophy next September as well. The guy who most wanted run out of town not too long ago wants to leave his mark on the NHL as The Guy and not just another suit running around with his tail stuck between his legs. Tom Stillman and Armstrong want the Enterprise Center stuffed with St. Louis players when the All Star Game comes to town in February. They want 25+ games in the playoffs again. These guys want it all.
If you are a Blues fan and found a way to not be thrilled this morning, I don’t know what to tell you. Don’t worry for too long about The Pietrangelo Decision. Don’t worry about the salary cap overload, because it will get handled. Don’t worry about Joel Edmundson departing for Carolina. He was good and not so good at several junctures last season. Faulk is an incredible upgrade.
Oh, what about that new Blue that looks like a Jonas Brother spent a year on the Mad Max Fury Road set? He’s very, very good. He’s spent eight years in Carolina, averaging 40 points over his last six seasons. Faulk has also tallied double digits in power play points over the past five seasons, and taken 200+ shots in four of the past five seasons. He was a +9 last season, and scored eight points in 15 playoff games. He accumulated 157 hits last year, and passes all the Corsi and Fenwick tests that the sabe-masters prefer.
If you ever imagined Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk’s love child, his name would be Justin Faulk. The second round pick in 2010 out of South St. Paul, Minnesota turned 27 in March, and the Blues wisely locked him up to a seven year extension worth $45.5 million. The average annual value is $6.5, or in other words, $800,000 more than what they will pay Steen to be a fourth liner again most likely this season.
Speaking of Steen, while the Faulk extension retools the future, the immediate trade for him spells one thing for this coming season: repeat. With Bouwmeester taking one last ride, as well with the possible end of Schenn and a couple others in Blue, this is a deal that puts the NHL on notice. St. Louis isn’t slowing down.
They are hungry to win it all again. They want more toasted ravioli, gooey butter cake, and momma’s special sauce filling Lord Stanley up next summer, and this is Armstrong’s spear being thrown across the league. This is his massive mic drop right before the skates get laced, the sticks, are taped, and the hostility of NHL action commences.
I didn’t see it coming, but I fell in love at first sight. Faulk didn’t just come to St. Louis, he’s hanging around for a bit. And all the Blues lost was a defenseman on a one-year contract who got healthy scratched at pivotal moments last spring and a young up-and-comer called Dominik Bokk, who is blocked by other highly talented fellas named Kyrou and Kostin. And while Bokk and I share a birthday, I’ll get over it.
The Blues won a Cup two and a half months ago. Guess what? They want another. Maybe a couple more. Brett Hull called and he wants to get blackout zombie drunk for an entire month again. Armstrong obliged.
Here. We. Go.