Friday, June 23, 2017

Blues acquire Schenn from Flyers, trade Reaves to Penguins

St. Louis deals Lehtera, 27th pick in this draft, conditional pick in 2018, 
get 31st pick along with Sundqvist, send 2017 second-rounder to Pittsburgh 

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues didn't want to be left in the dust with the rash of high-impact trades that took place Friday morning at the NHL Draft, so they made a big splash themselves on Friday night.

The Blues acquired 25-year-old center Brayden Schenn from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for the 27th pick of the 2017 NHL Draft (obtained from the Washington Capitals in the trade for Kevin Shattenkirk), a conditional 2018 pick, and center Jori Lehtera.

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported that the condition on the 2018 pick is as follows: it's top 10-protected and the Blues have the option to push it to 2019. If they do so, Philadelphia also gets a third in 2020.
(Philadelphia Flyers photo)
The Blues acquired Brayden Schenn (pictured) from the Flyers on Friday
for Jori Lehtera and two No. 1 picks.

Schenn, who was the Los Angeles Kings' No. 1 pick (fifth overall) in the 2009 NHL Draft, is a player the Blues have coveted for quite some time and Blues general manager Doug Armstrong and Flyers GM Ron Hextall were finally able to consummate a deal.

"Like most trades, they take mostly months," Armstrong said. "Brayden's a player that we've looked at to our core group quite honestly for a number of years. He's a player that I've talked to 'Hexy' about and it was more just a 'If you're considering moving him, keep me in mind.' Over time, he understood my interest and when he called recently and said that they might make that move, he asked if our interest was still there and I said yes and then we just started to go to work on what all that he felt was a return that can make him pull the trigger and we got to that tonight."

In a separate move shortly after making their first round pick at No. 20, the Blues traded fourth-line right wing Ryan Reaves and the 51st pick in this year's draft (second-round pick) to the Pittsburgh Penguins for center Oskar Sundqvist and the Penguins' first-round pick, No. 31.

The Blues were looking to shed the contract of Lehtera, which has two years remaining with a $4.7 million cap hit after a disappointing season in which Lehtera had seven goals and 15 assists in 64 regular-season games.

"I still do believe in Jori and I told that to Ron that he's a really proud player that didn't have the year that he wanted to have," Armstrong said. "I think he's going to bounce back and be a real good player and I hope he is a real good player for Philadelphia, but you have to give and obviously the draft picks were really important to Philadelphia in this transaction and almost in a cap era world, you have to make the dollars work."

Schenn still has three years remaining of a four-year contract worth $20.5 million with a $5.125 million average annual value remaining; he had 25 goals and 30 assists in 79 games for the Flyers last season; he has 109 goals and 139 assists in 433 NHL games, but 114 of his 248 points in the NHL have come the past two seasons.

Schenn will slot into the Blues' top six and be one of their top two centers along with Paul Stastny. 

"He can play at both wings and center ice. He's a player that can certainly produce on the power play, he fits into that age group with (Vladimir) Tarasenko, (Jaden) Schwartz and Robby Fabbri, (Alex) Pietrangelo, (Colton) Parayko. He's a player that fits into what we started last year at this time to try and incorporate younger people into the organization in key roles. I think he'll have a key role for us. The people that work with him rave about his character. I've had an opportunity to talk to people about him both internationally and in the NHL and it's a consistent theme that comes back. It's a theme where the trades blend in because of what we were giving up in Ryan Reaves, we wanted to have that type of character coming back.

"... We think that these forwards hit their prime at 25, 26. He'll play in his prime now for the next four or five years. We think we're getting him at a good time obviously. He's a highly touted junior player, an accomplished international player at the junior level and accomplished coming into the league. He was part of a huge trade that brought a Stanley Cup to Los Angeles and that was a key piece for them winning the Cup with him going to Philadelphia. Maturity comes with age and experience and we think we're getting him at just a really good time to benefit from that."

In dealing Reaves, the Blues were able to draft Russian left wing/center Klim Kostin, who was rated the No. 1 European skater who dealt with injury last season but according to reports, could be a steal at that pick for the Blues, and had it not been for a shoulder injury, Kostin could conceivably been a top 5-10 pick.

At 6-foot-2, 207 pounds, Kostin had six goals and 10 points for five teams in all competitions, including last playing for Dynamo Moscow. Here is his bio:

"It reminded me of my first draft as the manager with the Blues when we really liked Tarasenko," Armstrong said, "but there was uncertainty with the KHL and different things and we took the more secure player in Jaden Schwartz and went to work about sort of swinging for the fences and it really was like ... I don't want to put pressure on either player to be Schwartz or Tarasenko, but there's a lot of similarities in the sense that we took a player we felt is a high character player that's going to go anything he can to play in the NHL in Thomas and we really took a swing there at 31."

Sundqvist is 6-3, 209 pounds and has 28 games of NHL experience with the Penguins, including 10 last season; he has one goal and three assists, all in the 2015-16 season in 18 games after being a third-round pick in 2012. 

Sundqvist is a player the Blues feel will be NHL-ready immediately.

"We see him as NHL-ready now. He's coming out of his entry-level contract. He signed a three-year deal," Armstrong said. "The first year, he went back to play in Sweden and the last two years he's been in the NHL. Getting NHL games both years, he's a big, strong centerman, 6-3, somewhere around 215-220, a very detail-oriented game. When you usually get a Swedish or a Finnish player, they come with great detail and this player has great detail in his game, a player that we really liked in his draft year. I know Ray Shero was running the team then and we were going to select him, I think we picked a few picks after that and we thought he might slide to us because he was a late bloomer, but Ray's group grabbed him, so we've had our eye on him for a while."

Losing Reaves will be tough, as he is one of the -- if not THE -- toughest players in the league. Reaves played his entire seven-year career with the Blues and has 27 goals and 24 assists in 419 regular-season games.

Armstrong said the Penguins came calling about Reaves, and if he hadn't had the time to reflect on it and if the Penguins would have called Friday night, this might not have happened.

"It was very difficult. Not surprisingly, Pittsburgh called and made an extremely enticing offer and probably if they would have just called today, I don't think I could have been in the mental position to do it," Armstrong said. "Then the Philaedelphia trade and getting a high character player like Schenn back, I don't want to say it made it palatable, but ... it's not a comfortable feeling because I've had an opportunity to watch Ryan grow on and off the ice, get married, bring a young child into the world. As good as he is a competitor on the ice, he's a better person off the ice. Those are the things I think that inside the organization, you get a chance to see something when you see someone every day. I'm going to miss his personality, I'm going to miss his demeanor, his professionalism and his desire to try and get better and better. ... He did a phenomenal job of preparing for the new NHL and not surprisingly, the Pittsburgh Penguins saw that also."

Armstrong has said on more than one occasion the Blues will stay the course and build the team up with draft picks after trading the 27th away to the Flyers, he got one back and made two in the first round all along, including center Robert Thomas with the 20th pick.

But in getting Thomas at No. 20, the Blues were prepared to lose multiple picks to get Schenn.

"We obviously were prepared to give up the picks that we did, but these deals were made with the understanding that one was going to happen the other one was going to happen," Armstrong said. "We had to wait. Obviously we talked to the teams. I don't think anyone was aware nor should they be about what we're thinking with other teams. But when we got past pick 20, we were in a spot where we were very comfortable with the pick we took at 20 and excited to see if we could walk away with this draft with two first round picks, plus two NHL-ready players. We were able to do that. We were always ready to give up pick 51 to acquire the two players that we wanted in this draft. We were very fortunate and sometimes the draft goes like that. There was a player that we took at 31, got on the wrong side of the mountain and we were so excited that he was there at 31."

Thomas, listed at 6-foot-0 and 193 pounds, comes from the London Knights of the Ontatio Hockey League where he had 16 goals and 50 assists in 66 games during the regular season and seven goals and five assists in 14 playoff games.

Thomas was ranked 22nd at the final ranking among North American skaters, up from his midterm ranking of 28th.

His 66 points were third among players on the Knights' team, which included a best five-point game against Flint on Dec. 4, 2016.

Thomas' first season with the Knights was in 2015-16, when London won the Memorial Cup; he compares his style of play with that of Los Angeles center Anze Kopitar and Nashville center Mike Fisher.

More on Thomas here:

And with getting Thomas at No. 20, the Blues were content even though they were interested in moving up for a player Armstrong chose not to name. That player wound up going in the top 10, and the price would have likely cost the Blues both No. 20 and No. 27 at the very least.

"There was one player that we would have moved up to," Armstrong said. "He went obviously went before double digits and once that happened, we weren't going to use both picks. We were prepared to move 20 and 27 and sometimes trade works in your way and we weren't able to do that and then everything else sort of fell into place."

Armstrong didn't necessarily indicate the Blues were going to be able to replace what Reaves brought to them because it's hard to replicate.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ryan Reaves (pictured) was traded to the two-time Cup champ
Pittsburgh Penguins after spending seven years in St. Louis.

"I don't think we have a Ryan Reaves replacement internally and I'm not sure there's a Ryan Reaves replacement externally," Armstrong said. "That's why he was so valuable. We've been fortunate enough now to have Ryan for a number of years. I understand his value. Every team has a player of his capabilities and his skill set and now we're one that doesn't. I don't think it's as easy to go out and getting one. I put a lot of value in what Ryan does in many different fashions and facets than what maybe other people do. If there was an easy replacement for Ryan Reaves, on July 1st, (Penguins GM) Jim Rutherford would have just waited and done that."

As for Saturday, the Blues have a fourth-round pick (113), a fifth-round pick (130) from a trade with Buffalo for goalie Anders Nilsson, a sixth-round pick (175) and a seventh-round pick (206), and Armstrong doesn't see the Blues involved in any activity.

"You're always listening, but I have nothing that would make me think that quite honestly, not just tomorrow, for the next little while, our focus now changes to signing some of our restricted free agents," Armstrong said. "That could change with one phone call but I don't envision that."

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