The NHL trade deadline came and went Wednesday, and the St. Louis Blues’ one major move this week was shipping potential unrestricted free agent defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals.
The Blues received Washington’s 2017 first-round pick, a conditional second-round pick and one of the Capitals’ top forward prospects: Zach Sanford.
Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong addressed the Shattenkirk trade and many other topics during a wide-ranging interview with local media Tuesday. Here are some of his remarks, with questions edited for clarity:
Q: There was a belief that you’ve been trying to trade him for over a year, maybe two years, and that the longer you held on to him the less you were going to get. Is there any merit to that?
A: “We certainly weren’t trying to trade him for two years. We’ve had a very competitive team here for a number of years and he’s been a big part of that. I would say this thought process started at the entry draft last year. I had a chance to talk to Kevin and his agent about July 1, there was a possibility of signing him to an eight-year extension. (Kevin’s) response at that time was he felt he needed a different challenge. With (Colton) Parayko and (Alex) Pietrangelo I think he was hoping to get more responsibility in different areas. He felt that signing an extension at that time with this organization wasn’t something that he was prepared to do. With that knowledge, I tried to partner with Kevin, saying I respect that. I respected his honesty. He didn’t lead us down the garden path on what his thought process was going to be. Also he said he’d be more than happy to come back and play this year. He’s a pro and he likes the team.”
Q: There was an apparent attempt to trade Shattenkirk at the 2016 NHL Draft. What happened?
A: “The thought process at that time was we were going to get that value today, so why not maybe see if he changes his mind about wanting to stay here? Maybe the price goes up, but we certainly weren’t ready to do that for a draft pick later than ours last year at the entry draft. The interest level (now) was different than maybe I expected, certainly greater than it was last year at the entry draft, though. We got to (Monday), I knew a number of teams were still interested in making a trade. We talked last night, we got a deal that we were comfortable with and we move forward.”
Q: You have two picks in the first round now. How do you see that situation playing out?
A: “If we just did nothing and took the picks, we’re looking at two or three years away. But just because we have the (Washington first-round) pick doesn’t mean we’re going to use it to draft a player. We could always use it to move up higher in the draft to get a higher impact player earlier, or we could use that to acquire a player that can help us in the near future.
Q: Do you view this as a transition season? What’s the timetable for competing for a Stanley Cup title?
A: “We’re hoping that started this year and we’re going to continue to grow to that and grow to that next year and every year moving forward. We’re bringing in players in their early 20s and giving them a large role. When are we going to be in the situation the Capitals are? We were there last year. We made it further than that Capitals did last year ... we didn’’ make it as far as San Jose. There’s two teams that haven’t had to rebuild it, that’s the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins. When we play the CHhcago Blackhawks, every (single) night (Patrick) Kane, (Jonathan) Toews, (Brent) Seaborook, (Duncan) Keith and (Marian) Hossa are the best players, bar none. They can have whatever movement they want around that, their best players are their best players every night.”
Q: There was a recent rumor that former Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka (currently playing in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League; the Blues have one more year of his rights) could be traded.
A: “I’m done talking about Vladdy Sobotka. That ship has (sailed). Once he gets on our soil I’ll talk about him again.”
Q: With Shattenkirk gone, who are some of the Blues’ top defense prospects?
A: “We have (Vince) Dunn in the minors right now that’s playing very good. We have (Jordan) Schmaltz in the minors right now that we think can do it as a right-hander. And we have (Jake) Walman coming out of Providence that’s a good defensive player. Those are more of the offensive group. We have (Petteri) Lindbohm down there (in Chicago).”