By: Sammy Stava
The Fourth of July is on Wednesday, but on Sunday July 1st, the Opening Day of NHL Free Agency, Doug Armstrong set off some fireworks with offseason signings and trades that has the potential to dramatically improve this St. Louis Blues team.
The day started with three free agent signings early Sunday afternoon which addressed the Blues needs of another winger, center, and back-up goaltender.
LW/RW David Perron (four-year, $16 million)
C Tyler Bozak (three-year, $15 million)
G Chad Johnson (one-year, $1.25 million)
So after missing the playoffs by one point a season ago with a record of 44-32-6 and 94 points, these solid moves looked like they were just enough that SHOULD put the Blues back in the playoffs for the 2018-2019 season.
That was without moving one of their top four prospects, and most believed Doug Armstrong was done for the day, but then he found a way later Sunday evening to make room for a blockbuster deal.
That blockbuster deal sent Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Tage Thompson, a 2019 first-round pick and a 2021 second-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres for a high-quality center in Ryan O’Reilly.
While that may have seen like a heavy price to pay, Doug Armstrong did a wonderful job of unloading the Berglund and Sobotka contracts while holding on to Colton Parayko, Jordan Kyrou, Klim Kostin, and Robert Thomas. And with plenty of the young core still in-tact, the Blues also now have three legitimate centers to fill on each line with Schenn, O’Reilly, and Bozak, which is something this organization has desperately needed and lacked for a long time now.
Here is what the Blues are getting from Ryan O’Reilly: (h/t Ben Frederickson)
Here's how Ryan O'Reilly's stats from last season would have ranked for last season's #STLBlues
Goals: 24, T3rd
Assists: 37, 3rd
Points: 61, 3rd
Time on Ice/Game: 20:49, 3rd
Power Play Goals: 15, 1st (by 7!)
Total Faceoffs Won: 1274, 1st ( He was 1st in NHL … by margin of 248)
— Ben Frederickson (@Ben_Fred) July 2, 2018
Oh, and not to mention he was on a last place Buffalo team.
And let’s not forget about the free agent signings….
As David Perron begins his third stint with the St. Louis Blues, he is coming off a career with the Vegas Golden Knights totaling 66 points (16 G, 50 A) helping them reach the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season.
While Perron has certainly disappeared and disappointed come playoff time, and maybe this time around he’ll have a chance to redeem himself and have a lot to prove.
For third-line center production, the Blues made an upgrade in replacing Tyler Bozak for Patrik Berglund in another one of their underrated moves on Sunday. In 100 fewer games played, Bozak has 23 more points in his career than Berglund, as he’ll be making roughly $four million less in his first contract with St. Louis.
Tyler Bozak vs Patrik Berglund
Bozak: 594 GP, 136 G, 229 A, 345 P (undrafted) Contract: three-year, $15 million.
Berglund: 694 GP, 168 G, 154 A, 322 P (2006 1st RD pick) Contract: five-year, $19.25 million. #STLBlues
— Sammy Stava (@StavaonSTL) July 2, 2018
However, goaltending will always be a question mark for this franchise, but they’ve back-up option in Chad Johnson if Ville Husso isn’t quite ready for the NHL yet. Losing Carter Hutton hurts, but this team definitely made it clear on Sunday that Jake Allen is their guy, and now they have to roll with him.
Nothing is guaranteed, but Sunday’s additions by Doug Armstrong put the Blues on the right side of the playoff bubble, to maybe even becoming a legitimate threat in the Western Conference.
No, the Blues didn’t land or even get a meeting with John Tavares, but these moves on Sunday weren’t exactly a bad consolation prize. Doug Armstrong worked his magic.