St. Louis Blues Receive:
- Brayden Schenn (Center/Winger)
Philadelphia Flyers Receive:
- First Round Draft Pick (2017 No. 27)
- Conditional First Round Pick (2018)
- Jori Lehtera (Center)
Let’s start with the positional players in this trade. The Blues received a surefire 20-goal, 50-point per year 25-year old forward for an overpaid center that could barely put up 30 points centering one of the league’s best goal scorers. The sadder part of Lehtera is that despite his struggles, he was still the team’s second best center behind Paul Stastny. Acquiring a true #1 Center has always been the biggest struggle for the franchise since its inception. It’s a correlation in today’s NHL for the post-lockout Stanley Cup winners (Crosby, Malkin, Toews, Kopitar, Bergeron, Datsyuk, Getzlaf, hell even Eric Staal). Anyhow, that’s a larger topic for another blog post but the Blues could do a lot better to compliment Tarasenko or at minimum allow Paul Stastny to center the first line while allowing an adequate second line center to provide complimentary scoring.
I think that Brayden Schenn can fit this role on the Blues top line. His biggest knock is he is more of a complimentary forward and a little reliant on power play production. He’s not a player who is going to drive production for lesser-ability teammates like a Crosby or McDavid. He is, however, a center who is very capable of putting up 55 points a year and still has some upside at age 25. I feel that surrounding him with an all-world player such as Tarasenko, who is an underrated playmaker, could be an interesting combination. If you look at all of Tarasenko’s goals from the 2016-2017 season, you’ll notice a player who primarily likes to handle the puck. He’s not a winger that needs a setup-man, à la Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. While some would argue Tarasenko needs to score more goals to make the Blues a better team, I think putting a center with great finishing abilities could be the better short-term answer.
Brayden Schenn is a finisher. He reminds me a lot of a younger David Backes with a little less grit and a little better hands. He can follow the play, go to the dirty areas, and finishes for himself when given the opportunity. Tarasenko has proved he can score 40 goals a year without a true #1 center (FYI Crosby led the league with only 44 last year). He’s a human highlight year with great one-on-one skills. Putting a shoot-first center between him and Jaden Schwartz, who is another beneficiary of Tarasenko’s playmaking skills, could result in one of the best first lines in hockey. If you assume Tarasenko can continue his 40-goal pace and Schwartz and Schenn can put up another 50 goals between them, 90 goals for a first line would put the Blues near the top of the league. I would even argue that 100 goals between the three players wouldn’t be out of the question.
I’m not saying Schenn is the #1 Center that puts the Blues in the Cup Finals conversation, but I think in the right circumstance he could be a dark horse candidate. Above 0.80 points per game (roughly 66 points over a full season) is the magic mark for when a player becomes a true first line player. Schenn has averaged 0.72 over the past two season so he could be on the cusp of that designation.
As for the other pieces, I think it’s actually a plus the Blues were able to clear a roster spot and $4.7 million of cap space to give some of the younger talent more opportunity. The two first round picks are definitely a hefty price to pay given the premium on first round picks these days. Although if you think Schenn is the kind of player that can push the Blues into the Conference or Cup Finals, the first round pick for next year would be in the late-20’s anyway. A fair price to pay for a center with a couple more years of upside.
Blues Trade Grade: B+