The St. Louis Blues officially parted ways with Kevin Shattenkirk, trading the star defenseman to the Washington Capitals in exchange for a couple picks and prospect Zach Sanford. Pheonix Copley was also moved for Brad Malone.
Oh, and the Blues also absorbed some salary.
Let’s try and look at things rationally.
The Blues were never going to get the ransom they wanted from Shattenkirk without a contract extension in place. Without one, Shattenkirk could only be moved as a rental and that drastically reduced the return.
That being said, the return isn’t great. Keep in mind that the Capitals were arguably the Cup favorite to begin with and those odds only increased following this deal. That means that 2017 first-round pick doesn’t hold as much value as it may seem, particularly in a draft which is expected to be mostly underwhelming. Zach Sanford is an interesting prospect and has some big size (6’4″, 210 pounds) at the center position – a spot the Blues have been weak in for quite some time – but there’s no telling how he’ll fully pan out. At the very least, Sanford is more intriguing than just a spare part.
The Blues tried to sign Shattenkirk to an extension in order to move him for a big package, but that failed. That’s what led us to this mostly disappointing road in which the Blues have moved a proven, star asset in exchange for some underwhelming pieces.
How did we get to this point?
GM Doug Armstrong once again only has himself to blame. The Blues were unable to sign a strong asset because of their self-inflicted cap crunch. Bloated contracts across the roster forced the Blues to move one of the game’s best offensive-minded defenseman. Was it worth it? We’ll have to wait and see, but the strong assumption is that it wasn’t.
Once upon a time, Armstrong was a fearsome GM who fleeced opposing general managers. Now the reverse is true as the Blues have seemingly been on the wrong side of several deals while struggling to retain their own assets. Players such as Jori Lehtera ($4.7 million) and Jay Bouwmeester ($5.4 million) are two great examples of salary cap roadblocks. These bad contracts and arguably worse extensions have created a roster with little room to maneuver.
Armstrong has personally said that things may get worse before they get better, but it’s doubtful that even he has an idea of how far away the Blues are from being a true contender after coming extremely close last season. The Blues may have to sink further before any real changes that can benefit their future can be made.
There’s no guarantee the Blues could have kept Shattenkirk even with the needed cap space, but more cap space would have helped find some talent to try and fill the void once he left.