Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong knew he would have to pay a heavy price to acquire a player like Chris Stewart
, and the Blues are a much different franchise because of it.
Armstrong sent defenseman Erik Johnson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 Entry Draft, along with veteran forward Jay McClement and a first-round pick to Colorado for Stewart, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk
and a second-round pick.
"I think we've added a power forward that we've coveted for a while," Armstrong told reporters Saturday. "That is a difficult animal to find and to capture, and we were able to do that. We didn't trade Erik Johnson for nothing. We traded him for a power forward that is going to come in and make us a better team. That's the belief, and this is a hockey trade. I think in 10 years we're going to sit here and judge this trade based on the statistics and success of both organizations."
Stewart, the No. 18 selection in the 2006 Draft, had 28 goals last season for the Avalanche and was off to a great start this season before going out with a broken hand. At 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, he could join David Backes
to form a potent power forward duo for the Blues.
The names Armstrong mentioned as comparables for Stewart are a pretty good indication of how high he is on the newest member of the Blues.
"I hate to put labels on players, but when I think of Stewart, I have a picture of a Todd Bertuzzi, a picture of Brendan Shanahan, a Jarome Iginla," Armstrong said. "Someone who can overpower players going to the net but has the skill set to pull out and make plays."
St. Louis has an enviable collection of talented forwards, but David Perron
has missed most of the season with a concussion and T.J. Oshie
was out for 31 games with an ankle injury. It is safe to say Armstrong is looking forward to seeing his young, talented group together up front next season.
"I think getting a power forward takes a lot of the pressure off David Backes
and some of those other players," Armstrong said. "I get a smile on my face when I think Backes, Stewart, Oshie, Perron, Berglund, Steen and then Tarasenko coming. I think we're going to be able to put the puck in the net on a regular basis. Having Backes and Stewart, I think we're going to be able to score in different fashions now. We're going to be able to go to the ugly areas to score goals. We're not going to have to rely on outside shots. It is one thing to go the ugly areas, but it is another thing to have the skill set to go to the ugly areas and find the puck and get it in the net."
Shattenkirk is hardly a throw-in in this blockbuster deal. A first-round pick in 2007, he is second among NHL rookies this season with 26 points after beginning the season in the American Hockey League.
Still, teams rarely move guys like Johnson, a potential No. 1 defenseman who is playing more than 22 minutes a game as a 22-year-old. Armstrong felt the team's group of young players on defense allowed him to use Johnson to strengthen the depth chart up front while not turning the back end into a weakness.
"I think he's a very good player, but I think if you're going to make a trade to get a player you covet, you have to give up a good player," Armstrong said. "I don't think this is any indication that we were unhappy with Erik Johnson. I think this is an indication of his value in this League. Power forwards are hard to come by and you have to give something of great value to get them."
The Blues didn't just trade a No. 1 pick and the guy seen around the League as the face of their rebuilding efforts. Armstrong also dealt captain Eric Brewer to Tampa Bay for a third-round pick and prospect Brock Beukeboom
about 12 hours prior to the blockbuster with Colorado.
Brewer is an unrestricted free agent at season's end, and wasn't likely to return to St. Louis. The Blues have young defenesman Shattenkirk, Alex Pietrangelo
, Roman Polak
and Nikita Nikitin on the roster now, and Armstrong said former first-round pick Ian Cole
could join them.
Armstrong said he asked Brewer for some teams he'd be interested in moving to, and the Lightning were on the list. He also didn't sound like a general manager who intends to move into full-on "seller" mode.
"From ownership, the direction is clear. We want to start, we want to continue the winning process," Armstrong said. "We want to push for the playoffs, but we're not going to be a team that is satisfied with making the playoffs. Our goal is to be a championship team. Every deal, every waking moment that we spend is [about] becoming a championship team. Everything I do is with the ultimate prize in mind and I think this helps us get there.
"There's always some things you'd like to improve and conversations are going to happen. We've done some heavy lifting in the last 24 hours. We're going to reset, re-evaluate, have more meetings today, take a lot our roster and where we are now with who's restricted and who's unrestricted and what that means for next year's roster and then get back on the phones and see if we can improve our team."
By Corey Masisak | NHL.com