Doug Armstrong was quite the busy man on Friday night in Chicago. The NHL Draft was underway and Armstrong and the rest of the St. Louis Blues front office quietly awaited their picks at 20 and 27th overall. Armstrong and his front office staff are known for a rather conservative approach to the offseason, and don’t make many big trades. As accustomed, Blues fans waited for the picks to come up to see who will be the newest members in the bluenote.
Time rolled on, and the 20th pick finally came up. The Blues selected Robert Thomas, a center from the London Knights of the OHL. Thomas is touted as a solid two-way center and drew comparisons to Derek Stepan. Although goal scoring isn’t his best talent, Thomas still produces on offense, as 55 of his 66 points in the 2016-17 season came via assists.
Now the Blues also owned the 27th pick, but they dealt it away. The Blues acquired C Brayden Schenn from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for C Jori Lehtera, the 27th pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, and a conditional 1st round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. The conditions applying to the pick in ’18 are that it is a top 10 protected pick in the draft. The Blues also have the option to push the pick back to 2019. But if they push it to ’19, Philly also receives a 3rd round pick from the Blues in 2020. Here is the tweet from Elliotte Friedman giving the explanation.
The Blues no doubt have been lacking a true number one center. While Schenn isn’t the biggest name out there, he certainly will boost the Blues lineup. Schenn is only 25, and has scored at least 20 goals in three of his last four seasons. Schenn is a playmaker as well, as he has notched 29 or more assists in each of the last three years. He’s had 114 points combined over the last two seasons. Schenn is only getting better, and has two years remaining on his contract, where he is set to make $5.125M per season. The Blues also get rid of Jori Lehtera and his awful contract as part of the deal. Schenn’s cap hit is higher than Lehtera’s, but so is his production level.
Then just minutes later, Army was in talks with the Pittsburgh Penguins. They worked out a deal which sent Blues enforcer Ryan Reaves and the 51st pick (2nd round) in the draft to the Pens in exchange for the 31st overall pick and Oskar Sundqvist. With that 31st pick, the Blues selected Klim Kostin, a pure goal scorer from Russia, who slid in the draft because of a shoulder injury last year. If able to stay healthy, Kostin could be an absolute weapon for the Blues either at left wing or center.
Reaves was no doubt a fan favorite in St. Louis, and it sucks to see him go, but with what was offered in the trade, it would be hard for any GM to say no. Sundqvist, the prospect the Blues acquired, is only 23, and only saw minimum playing time with the Penguins over the last two seasons after being drafted 81st overall in the 2012 NHL Draft. The center played in 28 games with the Pens over the last two seasons, and only notched one goal and three assists. But this past season, Sundqvist played in 63 games in the AHL and scored 20 goals, added 26 assists for a total of 46 points. The potential is there, but Sundqvist will need to continue to develop his game in order to be an NHL regular.
Armstrong has been ridiculed all throughout his reign as GM of the Blues. Fans have called for Army to acquire better talent for the team over and over again. But today, June 23rd, the first day of the 2017 NHL draft, Doug Armstrong and the Blues had an incredible evening, making two trades that both benefited the team overall. Aside from acquiring a quality center, prospect, and getting Jori Lehtera’s contract out of the door, the Blues also made two quality picks in the draft. It will be exciting to see what Armstrong and the Blues do the rest of this offseason.