This wasn’t going to be the year, either, Blues fans.
After 50 Cup-less seasons in St. Louis, the Blues’ six-game losing skid leading right up to Monday afternoon’s NHL trade deadline was a pretty good indication that this wasn’t going to be their year to break that streak. For that reason, GM Doug Armstrong was left exploring deals in the final hours before the deadline that would contribute toward tearing things down rather than building them up for the stretch run.
So when the team announced Monday that it had sent center Paul Stastny to Winnipeg in a deadline deal, it didn’t come as much of a surprise—at least, not as much of a surprise as it would’ve been to hear about such a trade a couple weeks ago. Six straight losses, many of them featuring St. Louis on the wrong end of a blowout, forced the front office to reconsider its strategy in recent days.
With Stastny coming up on the end of his contract, the Blues preferred to maximize his value in a tumultuous season rather than hanging onto him until his deal runs dry with the hopes that the club could make a run this year.
The morning after the deadline, St. Louis stands just a point out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, though with two teams to leapfrog to gain sole possession of the final wild card. It's possible the lack of Stastny's presence over the final stretch of the season is the difference in the Blues failing to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
The reality, though, is the Blues were heading rapidly in that direction even with Stastny around. The opportunity to acquire a first round pick and either a prospect (Erik Foley) who turns into something valuable, or if he doesn't and the Blues don't resign him, a 2020 fourth round selection, was too great for Doug Armstrong to pass up.
The circumstances are reminiscent of last season's deadline when the Blues shipped pending unrestricted free agent Kevin Shattenkirk to Washington for a first round pick and Zach Sanford. St. Louis knew it had little chance to resign Shattenkirk then, as was the case with Stastny this year. The only difference was the chatter surrounding each trade, as the Stastny move wasn't as widely anticipated.
But it was sensible just the same. The Shattenkirk move a year ago gave St. Louis ammunition to execute a draft day that brought in Brayden Schenn and included first round picks Robert Thomas and Klim Kostin. In exchange for a slight detriment in the already-bleak present day, the Blues used the Shattenkirk assets as part of a larger plan to build for the future.
By moving Stastny, the Blues regain a first round pick in the upcoming draft and afford themselves an opportunity to do something similar this time around, so that maybe one of these years can finally be the one Blues fans have anticipated for half a century.