Doug Armstrong is in the market for a top-six player at the draft deadline. Every general manager is, but Armstrong has a Tarasenko-shaped hole that he might need to fill through the start of the playoffs, and a team that hasn’t played quality hockey since before the All-Star break.
A name that’s been thrown about a lot as a substitute for Tarasenko is UFA Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers. The left-winger has 18 goals and 17 assists in 50 games. That would tie him with Brayden Schenn for second place in goals on the Blues, and his 35 points would place him right behind Jaden Schwartz’s 42 points for sixth on the team.
Tarasenko’s return is fuzzy, and that’s why the Blues may be kicking some rental tires at the deadline. It puts Doug Armstrong in a tough position - do you trade for someone like Kreider and then have Tarasenko come back early, bumping your team over the cap? Do you trade for Kreider and have Tarasenko return to start the playoffs, ensuring front-end firepower that other teams don’t want to deal with?
Or, the biggest question, do you trade away parts of the future to sign a rental that more than likely your team can’t afford to re-sign, leaving a hole up front in a few years that you have to fill from without instead of within?
Pierre LeBrun over at The Athletic (subscription required) seems to think that Doug Armstrong should go for broke and deal for Kreider:
New York Rangers trade Chris Kreider to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a 2020 first-round pick and RW Jordan Kyrou. (Rangers retain 50 percent of Kreider’s $4.625 million cap hit.)
The salary retention would help, especially if the Blues sent salary in return. Kyrou’s $758,333 might not be enough, though, if Tarasenko returns before the playoffs.
On top of that, Jordan Kyrou is the Blues’ top prospect, and has been for quite a while. Doug Armstrong just told him to get a place of his own in St. Louis:
“I told him to get a place here, that he was an NHL player, that he had done what he could do down there” in the AHL,” Armstrong said. “Probably didn’t want to risk injuries either, you know. But it was discussed and talked about.
“I gave him my word that I wouldn’t do it (send him down). In hindsight, going down probably wouldn’t have been the worst thing for him. But I told him he didn’t need to go down. He’s done everything down at the American League that we wanted to see. He just has to continue to work hard off the ice and wait for the opportunity for the coaches to give him that chance to play.”
Armstrong will do what he has to, but I doubt that the guy who is flying Joel Edmundson’s folks in so they can see their son get his Stanley Cup ring would tell Kyrou to get his own place then ship him to the Rangers.
The Blues have a first round pick for the first time since 2018, and that pick was Dominik Bokk, who got shipped to Carolina with Edmundson for Justin Faulk, which may or may not’ve been a clunker of a deal. Good scouting leads to late round gems, but I don’t think the Blues’ last first round pick needs to be Robert Thomas.
If the Blues can fit Kreider in he’d more than likely be an explosive upgrade, but is winning again now worth risking part of the future?