ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Blues decided weeks ago that they will be sellers in the NHL Trade Deadline, general manager Doug Armstrong said Saturday.
The Blues made their second trade in a week on Friday when they sent centers Ryan O’Reilly And Noël Acciari to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a Three team deal this included the Minnesota game. St. Louis was granted rights to forward prospecting Josh Pillar of the Wild for O’Reilly, then traded him and Acciari to the Maple Leafs for Toronto’s first-round pick in the 2023 NHL draft, a third-round pick this year, a second-round pick in the 2024 NHL draft and forward Mikhail Abramov And Adam Gaudette.
O’Reilly and Acciari were traded after the Blues were sent up front Vladimir Tarasenko and defender Nico Michola to the New York Rangers on February 9 for the forward Sammy Blaisdefender view Hunter Skinnera conditional first-round pick in the 2023 draft and a fourth-round pick in the 2024 draft.
“It was probably a little bit before that (when we decided to sell),” Armstrong said. “This year we could not find the zero point. Good teams don’t falter the way we faltered. Win three, lose eight, win seven, lose five, win three. What that means to me is a team that has no foundation and something to quickly fall back on when things go bad.
“When things went bad, we allowed the snowball to gain momentum downhill. And when things were going (well), that snowball picked up steam downhill, too. … The valleys of great players are very close to their peak. There’s not a lot of fluctuation in their game.”
St. Louis won three straight games before losing 4-1 to the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday but lost five straight games from Jan. 21-30 in regulation. The Blues (26-26-3) are eight points behind the Minnesota Wild for the second wild card in the Western Conference’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The NHL trade deadline is March 3 at 3:00 p.m. ET.
O’Reilly has 19 points (12 goals, seven assists) in 40 games this season. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP when he had 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 26 games to help St. Louis defeat the Boston Bruins in seven games in the 2019 Cup Finals.
Acciari has 18 points (10 goals, eight assists) in 54 games.
Players said they felt they still had a good run to make a playoff push this season, but reality set in as they lost O’Reilly, their captain, and Acciari, the signed as a free agent last summer and quickly became a popular player.
“It’s tough”, Blues defender JustinFauk called. “Obviously everyone knows what Ryan meant to the organization and the guys in that locker. The same goes for Noel, who’s new this year, but he fits right into the group. He’s just a really good guy.
“It’s tough that it’s a situation that we’ve put ourselves in and left ourselves open to those management decisions. And we have to live with that. It’s hard to see people go meant so much to this team.”
The Blues had 109 points last season and lost in the second round of the playoffs to eventual cup winners the Avalanche in six games. The thought was that with minimal change, they would be right back in the middle of the Western Conference.
“That’s the reality of what we’ve done to each other this year, including the guys, who obviously have all been traded,” said the St. Louis forward Brayden Nice called. “We gave Doug a chance to go down that path, which is on the players, is on us. When you have upcoming UFAs and all that stuff, that’s just the nature of the business.”
The Blues could make more moves ahead of next season. They’ve amassed multiple picks, including three in the first round this year, that they could use in the 2023 NHL Draft to trade or win for-term impact players.
As with the trade with Tarasenko, Armstrong said getting a first-round pick for O’Reilly was imperative.
“Yes, equity in the NHL has these first-round picks now. We have three now,” Armstrong said. “I wish I had a crystal ball where I could tell everyone how this is going to work. We could use all three of those picks to pick players, and all three of those players would then play on our American (hockey) league team and then be inducted into our development process and then eventually be in the NHL and have a long career, or they may be gone before their name is even mentioned.
“I don’t know how it will turn out. One thing I know we’re going to do is when we move picks, player, it’s not going to be for year-olds. We need to pull players under 25, 26 and under on contract so they can grow with the next core of players that we have.”