Back in April, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong was asked how he could improve his roster this offseason, and he had an entertaining analogy.
“To think there’s just a hockey store I’m going to go to and say, ‘I’m just going to grab one of these and I’ll put that back on the shelf, I’m done with that’ … it doesn’t work that way,” he said at the time.
Armstrong is right.
Regardless of how much Blues fans want him to trade a defenseman this summer, it’s extremely difficult when they haven’t played well, they’re aging, and possess lengthy contracts with full no-trade clauses. The blame should be shared by the players and the GM, but further lamenting doesn’t help the matter heading into the 2023-24 season.
So, Armstrong can either bring the same defense back and hope for the best, or continue scouring the trade market for a taker. Justin Faulk is coming off an above-average season and you’d think the Blues want to keep him, so we’re going to focus our search on Colton Parayko, Torey Krug, Nick Leddy and Marco Scandella. How many more years are left on their deals? What type of no-trade clauses do they have? And what teams, if any, would be interested in them?
As Armstrong said, it’s harder than it seems. Colleague Shayna Goldman and I found that to be the case, too, as we evaluated the recent performance of those four Blues and tried to identify potential destinations for them around the NHL.
We mention the details of their no-trade clauses, but without having specific lists, we do not assume where they may approve or not approve to go. So some of the destinations may not be places they would waive their clauses for, but rather places we thought might make sense.
Let’s take a look …
Contract: Eight years, $52 million ($6.5 million AAV), runs through 2029-30
Clause: Full no-trade through 2027-28, modified 15-team no-trade list 2028-29 through 2029-30
Analytical look back at 2022-23: Parayko’s coming off a tough season in St. Louis. But if he could be slotted more appropriately, and not as a No. 1 or No. 2, a team could probably maximize what he brings to a lineup — a heavy shot, and an ability to limit zone entries against and break the puck out of his own zone with possession.
What teams could be interested?: Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres
The Senators inquired about Parayko this past spring, but ended up with the best defenseman on the market in Arizona’s Jakob Chychrun. Still, even with Chychrun, the Senators shouldn’t be done adding to that blue line just yet. It wouldn’t be surprising to see management look for another veteran who can probably bring more than Travis Hamonic on a nightly basis. Parayko’s more defensive style could pair well with the mobile blue line the Senators have built. Ottawa has both the roster and cap space to make this work, and can probably find another valuable asset to take this contract off the Blues’ hands.
The Sabres took strides this season, and thrived off the rush. But for all they created, they allowed a lot of scoring chances back in transition. So it would help to have a defenseman who can try to limit that by defending the blue line more, and retrieving pucks to break play out. That’s something Parayko can do, if maximized. He would become the oldest defender on the team and bring some experience to that defensive group.
Is this realistic and how could it help the Blues’ roster?: While there was significant speculation surrounding Parayko going into the March 3 trade deadline, it seems like a long shot that the Blues will move him. That’s because it’s a change-of-scenery trade, in which a similar right-shot defenseman is coming back in the deal and the club doesn’t have anyone to replace him. Faulk could handle the top-pairing role, but that may affect his overall impact, and who would slide into Faulk’s spot in the second pair? Saving Parayko’s $6.5 million AAV would provide cap flexibility, but as inconsistent as he was last season, this would seem to be a step back for the blue line.
Contract: Seven years, $45.5 million ($6.5 million AAV), runs through 2026-27
Clause: Full no-trade through 2024-25, modified 15-team no-trade list 2025-26 through 2026-27
Analytical look back at 2022-23: Krug’s coming off a year where he scored at the third-lowest rate of his career in all situations. It could be a sign of his play declining, or a product of his environment. While teams did enter the zone against him, many didn’t lead to scoring chances. Plus, Krug showed that he’s very capable of driving the puck up the ice with control still.
What teams could be interested?: Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks
The Red Wings were one of the worst teams at exiting the zone at five-on-five, with or without control. So why not bring in a player who could help transition up the ice in Krug? He seemed like a fit for Detroit when he hit free agency a few years back, and he’s obviously not nearly as valuable now. But with salary retention, and maybe some assets to take his contract off the books in St. Louis, it could make sense for a team with a ton of cap space. The key is that someone like Ben Chiarot has to be able to play the right side because the Red Wings have two lefties already.
The Blackhawks seem to have their right side figured out, but the left side of the blue line has room for a player like Krug. While his timeline obviously doesn’t line up with theirs, it could make sense to bring in someone to make Chicago a little less dreary for Connor Bedard — as it stands, that’s no environment to develop someone who can be franchise-altering. With Krug, they’d improve from this year’s struggles of zone exits, which would help spark offense. It would also give more salary-cap stability, considering how below the cap floor they are for the foreseeable future.
Is this realistic and how could it help the Blues’ roster?: Krug was banged up in 2022-23 and made no excuses, but it certainly had an impact on his play. The fact that he’s played in just 127 of 184 games the past two regular seasons is one reason it’s unlikely a team will bite on a trade, but the bigger reason is there are four years left on his deal. It’s doubtful the Blues would have any interest in retaining any salary — remember, they held onto Vladimir Tarasenko for two years after his trade request, in part, to avoid doing that. Armstrong would have to sweeten the pot with a high draft pick, which seems doubtful, too. If the team knew Scott Perunovich could stay healthy and be productive, it might be more apt to move Krug, but Perunovich remains an unproven quantity.
Contract: Four years, $16 million ($4 million AAV), runs through 2026-27
Clause: Full no-trade through 2024-25, modified 16-team no-trade list 2025-26
Analytical look back at 2022-23: Like Krug, Leddy’s coming off one of the worst scoring seasons of his career which makes him even less attractive to other teams. While he did help exit the zone with possession at five-on-five, he was not a positive on the Blues’ offensive generation relative to his teammates.
What teams could be interested?: New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes
The Islanders need more puck-movers on the back end to evolve with the league around them. Adding an aging defenseman isn’t exactly the ideal solution, but could make sense here if Lou Lamoriello just wants to maximize the team’s chances over the next year or two. The long term probably isn’t his problem, it’s the next general manager’s. Krug’s the better fit, but his cap hit is probably too rich. That’s why Leddy could make sense to boost offense at even strength, and on the second power-play unit behind Noah Dobson.
The Hurricanes are one of the few contenders with the cap space to make this work. Age probably doesn’t scare them off for someone they’d use as a depth defenseman — they did just acquire Brent Burns, after all. Plus, they know that they can make even the most flawed defenders click in their system; maximizing players is a strength, especially on the blue line. Leddy could add some play driving and scoring pop on the third pair if they don’t keep Shayne Gostisbehere around. It may take some salary retention or a sweetener to make it work, but it could make sense.
Is this realistic and how could it help the Blues’ roster?: If it’s not Parayko, a move involving Leddy makes the most sense for other clubs because he’s been healthy, his $4 million AAV is $2.5 million less than Krug’s, and he has one less year left on his deal (three). But because Leddy is a second-pair guy at best on a contender, that AAV and the years remaining still seem like too much. The Blues appear to be caught between a rock and a hard place. They’re not going to pay to push him out the door but meanwhile, he’s eating up ice time and payroll on a club that’s in a retool.
Contract: Four years, $13.1 million ($3.275 million AAV), runs through 2023-24
Clause: Modified seven-team no-trade list in 2023-24
Analytical look back at 2022-23: Scandella’s play has continued to decline in St. Louis, and he’s still working his way back from hip surgery. So the future isn’t exactly bright for this defenseman, and it would be hard to see a contender take a chance on him. That’s why a team that just needs cap space and doesn’t really care about the on-ice results makes more sense right now.
What teams could be interested?: Chicago Blackhawks, Arizona Coyotes
The Blackhawks need to absorb cap space, have a few defenders on expiring contracts, and that’s pretty much it. If Chicago can get some assets out of St. Louis for taking on this contract, it could help.
Everything that applies to the Blackhawks basically does to Arizona, which has five defensemen under contract for next year. The future is bleak for the Coyotes, so why not keep adding to their poor results with Scandella and hope it leads to more high draft picks?
Is this realistic and how could it help the Blues’ roster?: Trading Scandella seemed like a strong possibility in recent years, so you wonder how much his modified no-trade clause played a role in him not being included in a deal. Then last year, he had hip surgery, so that made it a moot point. The Blues have never bought out a player under Armstrong, so that never seemed like a real option. Now that Scandella is healthy and in the final year of his contract, a buyout would be a reasonable option if he can’t be traded, but truth be told the Blues need him for depth purposes and his work on the penalty kill. Plus, even if you moved him, that’s not going to change the complexion of the top four, which is the true concern. It looks like the team will be riding out the final year of his deal.
(Photo of Colton Parayko: Steph Chambers / Getty Images)