After declaring on July 21st the Blues were done making any major moves, the Blues organization discovered they were on the precipice of an organizational free agency calamity. Organizational free agency calamity?? The casual fan would probably say "wtf is that"... In fact, this is exactly the words GM Thompson muttered when told of the situation. For those of you less versed in the minutiae of the NEFHL CBA, rules state that players become unrestricted free agents after the age of 30. Meaning their teams no longer own their rights and they are free to test the open market. To help teams stay together, the CBA has a loyalty clause. This can be used on 1 player over 30 years old per year, allowing that player's team exclusive negotiating rights. The Blues "free agency calamity" occurred when freewheeling GM Thompson stopped paying attention to contract projections, resulting in 4 "core players" due to become FA's in the summer of 18/19. Who were those players? You'd only need to look at some of the frequent trade activity to sort that out but let us do it for you.
James van Riemsdyk
As you can see, 3/4's of the Blues heralded top 4 D, along with elite goal scorer, JVR are on that list. As an organization, the blues were looking at a make it or break it situation. Do they hold on to all 4 guys and make a run at the cup or do they try and pull of a trade (under duress) to ensure the long term stability of the franchise. Since history is in the rear view mirror, we know GM Thompson smartly choose the latter, ensuring the long term stability of the franchise. Let’s look at those moves.
First to go was long time Blues great PK Subban. There was a lot of interest in the 2 time Norris trophy winner. Not a big surprise considering his status as one of the league’s top 5 Dmen year after year. The trade went down as follows:
Even under "free agency calamity" type pressure the blues managed to pull off a good deal. In return for the 29 year the blues managed to bring in top 10 NHL rated center Mark Scheifele. Scheifele was only made available due to Colorado's ridicules depth down the middle. A top 7 rated NHL C in his own right, he was stuck playing 3rd line minutes behind x2 top 5 rated NHL centers in Connor McDavid (1) and Nathan MacKinnon (5). What are the chances?!? The Avs trying to keep pace in the nuclear armed west decided an in division trade with St.Louis to acquire PK Subban would bring more balance to their team. The blues although sad to part ways with their perennial all-star had no choice but to make this deal. In joining Blues 2 way juggernauts Sean Couturier and Jordan Staal, Scheifele gives the blues one of the deepest center groups in the NEFHL. To make the deal work financially the blues were forced to give up Haula and his 900k contract in exchange for top 9 LW Alex Killorn. It's also worth noting, the Blues also managed to bring down the average age of their core with this deal in moving a 29 year old Subban for a 25 year old Scheifele.
With a glaring hole on D left by the departing PK Subban, next on the list of pending free agents to move was JVR. The trade went down as follows:
Klefbom,Lindgren/Bracco and NYR 5th (2019).
JVR's value is in his 84SC rating and his relatively affordable contract of 2.85 million. This trade was a bit easier to pull off in terms of the Blues organizational needs. The blues already had top 6 wingers in the form of Landeskog, Grandlund, Smith and new comer Killorn. JVR was a luxury. In come Stanley cup contenders Florida. In return for JVR the Cats offered Oscar Klefbom and a decent package of prospects (Bracco/Lindgren) and a 5th round pick. Klefbom who isn't quite at the PK Subban level offensively, does have a lot going for him. For 1, at 25 years old, he's young. 2nd, he's coming off an all-star season in which he netted 40 points in 71 games. 3rd, the NHL oilers are hoping to have a rebound season and Klefbom is figured to be a big part of it. Rising waters should raise all ships including Klefbom's. 4th, he's still under contract at 1.75 million for this year and next giving the Blues some cost certainty. Finally, he filled an organizational need and give the still cup contending blues a legit top 4 D with defense partner, Vlasic and teammates Johnny Boychuk and Ryan McDonagh.
Given the situation the blues found themselves in, due to mismanagement and lack of foresight, GM Thompson played to his strengths and rattled off a couple of decent trades. In both of these trades the blues managed to move pending 29 year FA's for 25 year old established all-stars as well as address organizational needs. I can't see the blues are better right now after these trades but I do believe they are better long term, especially if you consider the prospects and the late round pick that came over in Klefbom in the JVR trade.
The Blues still face the prospect of losing one of their top 4 defenceman in either McDonagh or most likely the much older, and down trending Johnny Boychuck. However as an organization this will be a much easier pill to swallow then losing a talent like PK Or JVR instead. The free agency calamity has been averted for now. I wonder what kind of jam GM Thompson will get us in next.