Back in December, St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong said that he didn’t think his team would be in the market for a rental player around this year’s NHL trade deadline. In fact, more than a few NHL GMs have downplayed their potential involvement in the rental market.
Armstrong returned to Hockey Central at Noon on Friday and again suggested he could be active around the deadline without getting into the rental game. It’s no secret the Blues, with 19 goals in their past seven games and the 17th best offence overall, could use some more scoring punch up front. They’ve been linked in rumours to the likes of Max Pacioretty or Mike Hoffman, players with term left on their deals.
“I think we’re going to be active on hockey trades more than rental trades,” Armstrong said. “The reality is if you’re trading an unrestricted free agent at that time you’re going to get what you can get and sometimes that won’t come until the last second.”
Last year, most of the biggest deals around the deadline happened in the days leading up to the final day of trading, while overall, more minor moves were made on March 1. Two minor moves were made this week, the Phaneuf-Gaborik trade was a money deal and the Nikita Soshnikov trade was the result of a roster crunch in Toronto, but Armstrong said he believes deadline day itself could be busy again in 2018.
“I think it’s actually going to be a really busy time though,” he said. “I think once sort of that first, I don’t want to say marquee player, but higher-name player goes, I think you’ll see a flurry of activity. I think actually this might be the year it’s good to work (on television) on that last day. I think there could be a lot of stuff on that last day once the market starts to show itself.”
The Soshnikov deal was Armstrong’s first in this trading season, but it wasn’t the big move some are anticipating the Cup contender to make. The Blues GM talked about picking up the 24-year-old, which was a low-risk move for the team to add another young depth NHLer to the lineup, and pounce on a Maple Leafs team that was feeling a roster crunch as they sat at the 50-contract limit.
“We see him as a really good skating, high-energy player, a good complementary player that Mike (Yeo) will find a spot for somewhere in the lineup. We’re just looking to get him comfortable in our group now,” Armstrong said. “It wasn’t a grand plan to get this player (because) he fits in perfectly with one or two players, we just wanted to get another good player into our group of 12.”