I thought this was Suppose to have a Happy Ending so why am I Saad
After an incredible 48 hours from the start of the NHL Free Agent period, I am left thinking, where is Doctor Strange when you need him. I can see Doug Armstrong and Tom Stillman along with Chris Zimmerman standing on a desolate planet watching Strange sitting cross-legged floating in the air. His cape flapping away in awe and mind numbing conscientious. Strange’s head moving in a thousand directions all at once.
Stillman looks at the Doctor with a puzzled and concerned look. “Strange, are you ok” he stammers. Strange coming around looks at the trio and says, “I have just looked at one trillion ways this could shake out.”
Armstrong, just as puzzled, asks, “In how many of those scenarios do we win?”
Strange opens his eyes and dead pans. “I have no F’N clue”
It is the only answer I can come up with after the feeding frenzy on Wednesday and Thursday. According to Cap Friendly, teams signed 163 players on day one. Yes, you read that right 163. If you have been staying in a cabin off the grid your first thoughts might be, “oh great, I wonder who the St Louis Blues Signed?”
I can imagine your utter shock and disbelief as I tell you, they signed a grand total of Zero. That’s right, nil, zip, nada, no fricken one. The only thing that comes to your mind is “W H A T” “How is that even Possible.”
I wish I knew. Not only did they not sign anyone, but they also lost two of their own free agents. The first was not so surprising, Jaden Schwartz (yes, the Schwartz is no longer with us) signed with the Seattle Kraken. More on this is coming up. And in a somewhat surprising move, Mike Hoffman inked a three-year deal with the “Western Division” Champion Montreal Canadiens.
Day two started with a bit of noise when the Blues signed four minor leaguers. Twitter took note sarcastically. I even Tweeted “OMG the Blues just won free agency.”
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) July 29, 2021
— BlueNote Fan Report (@BlueNoteReport) July 29, 2021
The first splash Armstrong made in free agency was inking Colorado Avalanche Forward Brandon Saad to a five-year $22.5 million dollar deal. Saad a two time Stanley Cup winner with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015 was traded to the Avalanche at the beginning of last season in the last year of a 6 x 6.
Saad a career .58 Points Per Game player, is a solid two way 200’ winger. Accumulating a plus +52 in his 10 years in the NHL, he has seen that number decrease in the last four years. He finished 2021 with a plus +1 but in his last three years in Chicago he was minus -10, minus -9, and a plus +2.
Saad is a replacement for Mike Hoffman. The power play sniper completed a one-year deal with the Blues. When Hoffman agreed to a ten-day Professional Try Out in January 2021 the excitement in and around the fan base was higher than a 70s rock star.
Unfortunately, the excitement was quelled when he spent most of the season in Craig Berube doghouse. Used on the second line and the subject of trade rumors leading up to the 2021 deadline, he still stated he would like to return to the Blues this season.
In conversations with a person close to Hoffman and the negotiations they felt it was 50/50 if he would come back, but he was leaning towards the Note. Montreal’s three-year $4.5 Million dollar offer seems to be an easy decision for the Blues to match or sweeten but that did not happen.
While the loss of Hoffman stings, the Kraken signing Schwartz just plains stinks. Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic wrote how the expansion rules allowed Seattle to snap up both Dunn and Schwartz from the Blues.
Rutherford wrote, “It has many asking whether a deal could have been in place with the understanding that the sides would wait until free agency to consummate it, giving the Kraken the chance to get both players.
The Athletic asked NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly on Tuesday if the league had any concerns about how those events transpired, and he replied, via email, “Not on the basis of the facts that you described.”
What might be missing from this equation is, “Perception.” This season there was no courting period. Normally teams and free agents have a few days to meet and discuss details of a signing. During a normal courting period it is common to hear about possible signing before the official free agent free for all begins.
This year was no different, but it should have been. Without the traditional courting period how did these “rumors” come to fruition so quickly?
Well, in the Schwartz case this is where the perception comes in to play. Seattle had a 48-hour exclusive negotiation window with all Free Agents. Seattle met with Schwartz during this window. If they could make a deal, the NHL would consider Schwartz Seattle’s draft pick from the Blues.
What happen is where the nefarious comes in to focus. On Draft Day the Kraken selected Vince Dunn from the Blues.
The Athletic released this tweet the day before the sharks began circling.
The Seattle Kraken are expected to sign free-agent winger Jaden Schwartz when free agency opens on Wednesday, a source told The Athletic. Free agency officially opens at noon ET.https://t.co/nsZLzE85Uh
— The Athletic NHL (@TheAthleticNHL) July 27, 2021
With no courting period, the only way this deal got done was during the exclusive period the Kraken had. They may not have signed it until after the official period began but the perception of impropriety is there. The perception is strong enough to warrant an investigation and Vince Dunn being awarded back to the Blues.
While this most likely won’t happen, the Blues should pursue this avenue. They could be awarded a high draft pick and/or players. This is one of those times I do not see a negative in asking the question.
In the Past Armstrong has made some blockbuster deals that have bolstered the franchise. Bringing in Both Brayden Schenn and Ryan O’Reilly while losing troubled pieces such as Jori Latera and Vladimir Sobotka led the team to the first Stanley Cup.
The lack of movement during the beginning of this FA opening and the ongoing saga with star Vladimir Tarasenko have left many wondering what is next for the Blues?
I feel as if this is the final scene in the Castaway. Armstrong has his prize in his hand and is sitting at a crossroads with a map unfolded. Yes, before cell phones and GPS we had paper maps. He looks at the map and ponders his next move.
I hope for all of the Blues fans out there this soap opera turns in to a Disney sports movie soon, otherwise the first 52 years may just repeat themselves.
Till Next time Hockey fans.
Guy “Hawaii Blues Fan” Bensing