As the slowest trade deadline day in 20 years has passed, the Blues appear content with their current roster. The club confirmed it had not made a deal by the 2 p.m. CT cutoff, making their acquisition of goalie Anders Nilsson their only deadline-season transaction.
Monday, which was the actual deadline day, saw very little activity, with many of the projected big-name players remaining undealt. The Blues were believed to be in the market for help up front, having a rumored interest in Tampa Bay forward prospect Jonathan Drouin and Boston winger Loui Eriksson. Neither of those two players were moved by their respective clubs. Another possible target was perhaps Arizona’s Mikkel Boedker, but the forward was dealt to Colorado as part of the day’s 11 trades.
While Blues general manager Doug Armstrong likely made some calls, his hands were tied due to the team’s close proximity to the salary cap ceiling.
"I think for our situation, I've been pretty upfront with (other general managers) I've talked to over the last couple of weeks about what our dynamics are and where we are as far as the cap," Armstrong told TSN earlier in the day Monday. "I haven't personally been involved in a lot of the calls today only because I don't want to waste guys' time if they have other things going on.”
The Blues were expected to be fairly active with division rival Chicago making a few splashes earlier in the week, acquiring forwards Andrew Ladd, Tomás Fleischmann and Dale Weise to add to an already-deep forward core. But with several players on injured reserve expected to return prior to the playoffs, there was no cap room to add and apparently no fits in trade negotiations for Armstrong and the Blues.
“I think it is more economics than anything,” Armstrong said last week.. “As a manager you always say ‘this player would be a good fit for us’ and jam him in there and make it work. But right now, it’s more of a math equation than anything to make the salaries work.
“Because the salary cap didn’t increase like the amounts we are used to in the last few years, a lot of teams were nestling to that cap at the start of the season and it’s a little bit harder to add those players. Everyone is getting as creative as possible to put those pieces together.”
The Blues are hoping to return to full health by the end of March, with forward Alexander Steen and goaltender Brian Elliott scheduled to be re-evaluated in a few weeks. Armstrong believes the current roster, at that point, will have enough talent to succeed in the playoffs despite three-straight first-round exits.
“They have shown to the world and to the hockey community at least that they are in (a good spot) with all the injures,” said Armstrong. “The reality is, you get to the playoffs and you need health and you need good players to play well.
“With players like Elliott and Steen, we obviously want to get them back as soon as possible. Our goal is to make the playoffs. I want to get Steen playing and obviously he wants to play so if and when we make the playoffs, he will be up to form.”
The problem is, the club has yet to be fully healthy for any game this season, as a rash of injuries have muddied the waters. For a team that is 24th in goal scoring per game, the uncertainty is risky heading into April.
“I believe in the players, in this team,” said Armstrong. “My belief is in that group in there. For us to have success, our best players aren’t looking for assistance from the outside; they know the responsibility lies on their shoulders and I think they are ready for that challenge.”
The Blues could return to the Drouin sweepstakes in the offseason, as well as target other players likely to be made available at the NHL Draft.
Within the organization, the Blues did make a few transactions on Monday, assigning forwards Ty Rattie and Dmitrij Jaskin, as well as defenseman Joel Edmundson to the Chicago Wolves to make the players eligible for the AHL playoffs. Jaskin and Edmundson were recalled by the Blues while Rattie will remain with Chicago due to the return of forward Ryan Reaves from his three-game suspension on Tuesday.