In our previous article regarding Jaden Schwartz, it was pointed out that the Blues needed to find a way to win without Schwartz’s offense to guide them. Even though the Blues performance since that article has improved and they are currently riding a 3-game winning streak, it is still a problem that needs to be addressed. The Blues offense still is not recording as many goals a game as they should, and they seem to be in an offensive drought. Managing to win 3 games straight is not the same as actually competing, and to become competitors again, the Blues need a replacement for the injured forward that they relied so much upon. Here is a list of the Blues’ options regarding the replacement of Jaden Schwartz.
There are several names in the Blues organization that we would like to consider to replace Schwartz before we delve into the possibility of a trade. The Blues have three stars in the minor league system who could help the team out tremendously, though promoting all three right now does not seem realistic as there is simply not enough space on the roster. We will leave it up to the opinion of the fans in regards to who the Blues should promote, if anyone. The three options for the Blues in the minors are Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, and Klim Kostin.
Jordan Kyrou: Jordan Kyrou is a 19-year-old center that was drafted by the Blues in 2016. He plays for the Sarnia Sting, an OHL team. Kyrou has shown early on that he has tremendous potential, and already has 19 goals and 39 assists for the Sting this season for a total of 58 points in 30 games, on pace to break his personal record of 94 points in 66 games. He leads the entire OHL in points, even though he hasn’t played in the OHL since December 9. Not only that, but Kyrou has continued to play a disciplined game. He only has 10 penalty minutes this season, fantastic compared to the 36 penalty minutes he recorded last season. He was chosen to Canada’s World Juniors team, which is playing for the Gold Medal in their upcoming game against Sweden, which is why he has not been with the Sting. Kyrou has impressed in the World Juniors, scoring 3 goals and recording 6 assists for a total of 9 points, just 1 point behind the lead for the top goal-scorer in the tournament. Once he returns from the World Juniors, the Blues may give him a promotion to the NHL.
Robert Thomas: Robert Thomas is an 18-year-old center who also plays in the OHL, but for a different team than the Sting. Thomas plays for the London Knights, where he has been playing since he was drafted by the Blues in the 2017 draft. Thomas has not recorded as many assists as Kyrou has with the Sting, though he has cashed in more goals, something that the Blues are desperately searching for. He has 20 goals and 26 assists in 27 games, adding up to 46 points. He does have more penalty minutes than Kyrou with 18. Thomas and Kyrou both play for team Canada, however, though Thomas has not had quite the production of Kyrou. He has 1 goal and 5 assists in 6 games, just 3 behind Kyrou. Thomas is young, and though he may not have the numbers of Kyrou, he is a great goal scorer, something that the Blues relied on Jaden Schwartz for, so he may find his spot on the Blues roster after the World Juniors.
Klim Kostin: Klim Kostin is also an 18-year-old like Thomas, though Kostin is from Russia, not Canada. Kostin is both a center and a winger, a left-handed shot that the Blues could use. Unlike Kyrou and Thomas, Kostin plays in the AHL for the San Antonio Rampage. Kostin was injured at the beginning of the AHL season for 10 days, so he has only played in 26 games. In that time, he has recorded just 2 goals and 9 assists, coming to 11 points. Though these stats don’t seem NHL-worthy, his performance in the World Juniors changes some minds. Kostin has played 5 games for team Russia, and in that time frame, he has scored 5 goals and 3 assists, a total of 8 points, just 1 behind Kyrou and just 2 away from the World Juniors lead. When Kostin was asked by Alexei Shevchenko fromSport-Express whether his NHL debut would be determined by his performance in the WJC, Kostin responded, “Yes, if I’ll play well on the tournament I have been promised to play in St. Louis” (Rosso).
No matter who the Blues go with if they choose to promote someone rather than trade, they have incredible potential in these three players. However, some fans may still believe that the solution to the replacement of Schwartz does not fall inside the organization. Instead, that person is currently on another team, and the Blues will have to give something up to fix their problems. Here are the potential trade candidates for the Blues, teams that have fallen off of the grid and are looking to either change things up or rebuild their system altogether. We will not be speculating the Blues names that could be traded during this, only names that we could trade for.
Montreal Canadiens: The Blues have maintained that they have interest in Max Pacioretty. The Canadiens forward has 10 goals and 13 assists this season, which adds up to 26 points. Though Schwartz had 35 before his injury, it is thought that a change of scenery could be good for Max, much like the situation with newcomer Brayden Schenn prior to his trade to the Blues. The Canadiens themselves are not having a particularly stellar season. They are 6th in the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division, only leading the Ottawa Senators (another trade candidate, see next) and the Buffalo Sabres. They are 23 points out of first place, and they could use some of the talent that the Blues currently have to help boost their offense. Both sides could benefit from a trade of Pacioretty, and Pacioretty may be the one who benefits the most.
Ottawa Senators: As mentioned in the former paragraph, the Ottawa Senators are 7th in the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division, only leading Buffalo. Even though the Senators haven’t had the season they had been hoping for, they do have a numerous amount of talent that they could use to obtain more talent and possibly crawl out of the hole they dug. The name here that the Blues are the most interested in is Mike Hoffman, a big center/left winger that the Blues could use in front of the crease. Hoffman has 10 goals and 18 assists, adding to 28 points, a little closer to the 35 that Schwartz had. Even though the Blues may have to take on part of his contract, Hoffman could be the answer to their woes. Hoffman was given a contract by the Senators in 2016, which was worth 4 years and $20.75 million, an average value of $5.2 mil/year. Hoffman still has two years left in this deal, so the Blues would not be trading for a player they would only have for one year and then he would be gone. Hoffman may be a better fit for St. Louis than Pacioretty.
Though a trade may seem like the initial plan of action when a player like Schwartz gets injured, some may think it is better to simply call up a guy like Thomas, Kostin, or Kyrou and hope that they can put a band-aid over the tumor that is the Blues struggles until Schwartz can return. However, with this in mind, the last thing that the Blues want is to rush the recovery of Schwartz simply because the team is struggling without him. If the Blues want the same production from Schwartz that he had before he was put on the Injured Reserve, then they need to let him take his time with recovering from the ankle injury he sustained. Finding someone to replace a player who was on the verge of having a career year is difficult, but the Blues do not really have an option at this point. For now, we can only speculate who this incoming Blue will be and if he will live up to the expectations that will be put on his shoulders almost automatically.
Rosso, Alessandro Seren. “St. Louis Blues Klim Kostin Is Ready for NHL His Call-Up.” The Hockey Writers, 7 Jan. 2018, thehockeywriters.com/st-louis-blues-klim-kostin-ready/