Friday, June 26, 2015

Blues quiet on first day of NHL Draft

Team was minus first round pick, quiet on 
player trades on day when many others made deals

That sound of crickets emanating from the BB&T Center, where 30 teams converged for the 2015 NHL Draft, came from the Blues' draft table Friday night.

Without a first round pick at their disposal (the Blues traded it away in a package to the Buffalo Sabres that brought goalie Ryan Miller to St. Louis in March of 2014), the Blues had to sit idly and watch 30 teams make picks.

Trades were made -- some significant players moved -- and some were made for teams to get into the first round that weren't there before. The Blues were not one of them.

The Boston Bruins made the most significant moves, trading potential cornerstone defenseman Dougie Hamilton to the Calgary Flames, then dealing power forward Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings. Center Ryan O'Reilly went from the Colorado Avalanche to the Sabres, who also acquired goalie Robin Lehner and center David Legwand from the Ottawa Senators. 

General manager Doug Armstrong said while there's been plenty of trade chatter, the Blues exited the arena floor on Friday night without a draft selection and without any player personnel moves.

"Obviously Boston is the team that made the most drastic change to their roster," Armstrong said. "They've obviously gone in the direction to go for tomorrow. That's a big change from where they've been the last little while and teams make those decisions and I respect Donny (Bruins GM Don Sweeney) for standing up and going in that direction.

"Other than that, the trades you see today are mostly trades of teams going in one direction and another team going in another direction. Quite honestly, hockey trades often happen at the trade deadline. There aren't many hockey trades the first day of the draft."

Armstrong said teams have talked to the Blues but wouldn't discuss specific players involved.

"I have a real good comfort level for who's available and what's available," Armstrong said. "Now we just sit back and wait to see what everyone wants to do. I think what you'll find is you have now and then free agency's a time where if people's needs aren't met in unrestricted free agency, then the trade calls start again. You'll get to the middle of July and it'll go extremely quiet until training camp. We're more than prepared to come back with the group that we have now. It's a long time before the next trade deadline and we're not going to force something."

In other words, Armstrong won't sell the Blues short. If the Blues leave Florida without any player personnel changes, they're willing to be patient.

"The deals made today are teams building for tomorrow using today," Armstrong said. "We're still in the hockey trade route."

Which will be difficult to pull off in today's salary cap era, which is at $71.4 million (the Blues have roughly $56.4 million committed to 15 players). Plus, the Blues have restricted free agents that they have to sign, namely Vladimir Tarasenko, who is in line for a hefty pay raise. 

The Blues were brought up in various trade rumors throughout the day Friday, and T.J. Oshie's name was mentioned more than any. For a team that exited the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the first round for a third straight season (the Blues have dropped four straight playoff series), fans are clamoring for change.

The Blues are prepared to be patient for the right deal, or deals.

"We understand our roster. We understand we'd like to maybe make some alterations, but it has to make sense," Armstrong said. "When I say that, I look at 29 other teams that haven't made hockey traded either.
Doug Armstrong

"Today was more about ... you don't see many hockey trades today. That obviously would have started last Monday and Tuesday in Las Vegas. That's when you could have imagined having some hockey trades. Today there wasn't a lot of discussions because mostly teams are focused on moving around in the first round and gaining picks and that's what you saw today or going in a different direction. Obviously you saw Edmonton making a big deal at (No.) 16 exiting for a very good young player (Griffin Reinhart). Those are trades that we just weren't going to get involved in this season."

As for the draft on Saturday, the Blues (unless they make any transactions) will have the 26th pick (56th overall) in the second round and have a today of six picks in Rounds 2-7. 

"Tonight's an important night. We're going to go back and spend time with our amateur staff. We work our list now," Armstrong said. "We've seen 30 players get claimed. That shouldn't have a huge affect because we're picking 56, but there's some players that we had a little bit further down the line that have gone, which is good for players we obviously had further up the line. The guys are excited. They think it's a good draft. Our second round pick is important for us and then having that early fourth, we have extra picks later on, but our second round pick will be important.

"... Moving into the first round was going to be difficult based on what our purpose is for next season."

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