Like many teams, St. Louis is entangled in both an expansion draft pickle and a salary cap conundrum.
The 2019 Stanley Cup champions still possess most of the same players from the team that helped them win hockey’s greatest prize two years ago. While most of those players are exiting their prime, many of them are still valuable contributors who will be protected in the upcoming expansion draft.
Here is St. Louis’s projected protection list, courtesy of Jeremy Rutherford from The Athletic.
- Ryan O’Reilly
- David Perron
- Brayden Schenn
- Vladimir Tarasenko
- Robert Thomas
- Jordan Kyrou
- Oskar Sundqvist
- Colton Parayko
- Justin Faulk
- Torey Krug
- Jordan Binnington
Interestingly enough, the majority of their intriguing unprotected players on the Blues are restricted free agents. They have approximately $17.5 million in cap space remaining, with UFAs such as Jaden Schwartz, Tyler Bozak and Mike Hoffman looking for new contracts. They also have notable RFAs such as Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou, along with three other players below who might look nice in a Canucks uniform...
2020-21 Stats: 43 GP, 6-14-20
Contract Status: RFA ($1.875 million to qualify)
There’s no doubt that there will be interest in Vince Dunn on the open market. He’s a 24-year-old right-shot defenceman with a Stanley Cup ring, and one who posted a career-best 0.46 points-per-game in 2020-21.
If he isn’t dealt prior to the expansion draft, you’d have to think that this is the first player Seattle has on their list to acquire. Because of that, you’d think that St. Louis would rather get something in return, rather than lose him for nothing. He’s currently their best trade chip.
Dunn is a bit of an interesting case study. While he’s highly regarded for his offensive output, he’s struggled with consistency, and even spent some time as a healthy scratch early in the season. He ended up playing largely in a third-pairing role, averaging a shade over 19 minutes of ice time per game.
One area where he did excel for the Blues was as their second-unit power play quarterback. That’s an area where he’d help the Canucks, although you might argue that the Canucks are better off targeting someone with more defensive acumen.
Trade Value: It’s not often that a young, talented, right-shot defenceman gets dealt. The most recent comparable deal was Colorado trading two second-round picks for Devon Toews last summer. Toews is much better defensively, but not as dynamic offensively. You’d have to imagine that St. Louis targets a first-round pick in this deal (something the Canucks should steer away from if that’s the firm cost), but two second-round picks for the 24-year-old seems fair.
2020-21 Stats: 38 GP, 5-7-12
Contract Status: RFA ($1.55 million to qualify)
Drafted three spots before Thatcher Demko in 2014, Ivan Barbashev is an intriguing depth forward whom the Canucks could target to fill in as a bottom-six centre. While his face-off winning percentage is not great (43.4% in ‘20-21), Barbashev provided value with secondary scoring and strong penalty-killing ability.
Barbashev was the Blues’ second-most used forward on the penalty kill this season behind Oskar Sundqvist, and his shorthanded goals-against total of 4.82 per-60 was one of the best marks on the team.
Trade Value: Forwards of similar value, such as Ryan Donato and Austin Watson, have been traded for third and fourth-round picks respectively. Because Barbashev scores at a third-line rate (1.56 points-per-60) and provides value on the penalty kill, a third-round pick seems like fair value.
2020-21 Stats: 52 GP, 10-6-16
Contract Status: RFA ($1.5 million to qualify)
The burly 6’4”, 207 pound winger would be a sizable upgrade on the left-wing in the Canucks’ bottom six over guys like Jake Virtanen, Zack MacEwen and Antoine Roussel.
After an explosive 2019-20 campaign in which he registered 16 goals and 30 points in 58 games, Sanford took a small step back in 2020-21. However, he still registered 10 goals in 52 games, and was one of three Blues to score at least one goal at even-strength, on the power play and shorthanded, along with Ryan O’Reilly and Bozak.
Trade Value: Sanford profiles similarily to Austin Watson, who was dealt for a fourth-round pick last offseason. However, since Sanford has better offensive production, you’d have to think that a third-round pick is the floor here.
2020-21 Stats: 36 GP, 8-7-15
Contract Status: Signed for one more season at a $1.5 million cap hit. (RFA in 2022)
The only player under contract for next season on this list, 25-year-old Sammy Blais provided a decent secondary scoring punch for the Blues last season, with 15 points in 36 games while playing in a fourth-line role. However, there is reason for caution here since Blais had an unsustainable shooting percentage of 25.8% in 2020-21.
His 2019-20 rate of production might be a better gauge of his real value. He had six goals and 13 points in 40 games that season, and his 1.66 points-per-60 at even-strength in ’19-20 is still a solid third-line scoring rate.
Trade Value: Another knock on Blais is that he hasn’t been used much at all on special teams in the NHL. However, his decent even-strength production probably means he’s worth a fourth-round pick via trade, especially with cost certainty heading into next season.
Notable UFA Target: Tyler Bozak
This series is focusing on trade targets, but realistically, the Canucks might be better off saving their limited number of assets in favour of targeting low-cost unrestricted free agents.
One player who might be an intriguing option on a one-year contract is Tyler Bozak. The 34-year-old, although three years older than Brandon Sutter, would be a pretty sizable upgrade. Despite battling injuries this season, he still finished with 17 points in 31 games. Bozak continued to contribute to the penalty kill, and he’s still a face-off ace, finishing with a 56.8% efficiency in the dot this season.
I’d argue that signing Bozak to a one-year, $1 million(ish) contract only makes sense if neither Jay Beagle or Sutter are back with the Canucks next season. The Canucks desperately need more speed in the bottom six, but that’s unlikely to happen with a combination of Bozak/Sutter/Beagle as your third and fourth line centres.
So, which St. Louis Blues player would you target this offseason, if any?
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