The 2017 NHL Draft Day, June 23, was an exciting one for the St. Louis Blues. They added an impressive amount of strength to their lineup, in the forms of Brayden Schenn and Oskar Sundqvist. The trade to acquire Sundqvist was especially noteworthy, though. The Blues sent away a second round pick and fan-favorite enforcer Ryan Reaves; in exchange for Sundqvist and a first round pick (Klim Kostin). The Blues acquired two potential top six forwards for little cost.
It was interesting that they traded Reaves, though. The gritty forward has been a key part of the Blues bottom six, and how they play the game. Fans thought he was guaranteed to spend the rest of his career in St. Louis when he was protected by the Blues in the 2017 expansion draft. It was a shock to many when the team chose to keep Reaves, over David Perron. Especially considering Perron’s 46 points was over three times Reaves’ 13. In his first year back with the Blues, Perron fit with the system. Still showing a lot of skill, the unprotected Perron was an easy take for the Vegas Golden Knights. This left the Blues with a disgruntled fanbase and Ryan Reaves still in the system.
Those fans stayed upset until draft day, when the Blues made the shocking trade. Many fans stopped being mad about Perron leaving, and started being mad about fan-favorite Reaves leaving. Few could argue that the Blues did not win the trade, though. What can be argued, was whether the deal was worth protecting Reaves and losing Perron in the first place. In layman’s terms, it wasn’t.
The Ryan Reaves Trade Was Not Worth Protecting Him
The Golden Knights Wouldn’t have Taken Reaves
The Blues protected Reaves with the intent that he didn’t leave St. Louis. This isn’t the smartest move though. Ryan Reaves is a fourth line fighter. While, admittedly, he has done a lot to improve his skating and offensive game under Ken Hitchcock, it wasn’t enough. He’s still a six foot tall, 224 pound fighter. He was an intimidating face in Alaska, Peoria, and St. Louis. His career highlights consist of him breaking his hand on someone’s cheek bone or knocking out Jordin Tootoo. And his ‘dab’ after scoring in 2015, but that’s besides the point. His highest scoring NHL season came last year, when he beat his previous record by a single point.
None of this means Reaves isn’t a crucial part of the team he’s on, though. His physical presence keeps other teams on their toes, and he’s a great bodyguard for other teammates. That’s why the Penguins took him. They wanted a strong fighter to stand up for players like Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel, who get tossed around by the strength in their division.
The Blues Could’ve Kept Reaves and Perron
With that said, a Ryan Reaves type of player isn’t ideal for a new team like the Knights. Yes, he’d play a good bodyguard and leadership role, but a fourth line fighter who can’t score more than 15 points is far less attractive than a 46 point scoring forward like Perron. If Perron would have been protected, and Reaves left open, it’s still unlikely he would’ve been leaving the Blues. Dmitrij Jaskin and Kyle Brodziak were both still left available, and are both more attractive for Vegas.
Jaskin is a 24-year-old who arguably hasn’t seen the right chance to shine. He had a good run in the playoffs, though, and showed a bit of promise. With a new team, and a for-sure middle six spot, Jaskin could’ve finally shined. Brodziak would’ve been equally attractive to a growing team. He’s not the best player, but he’s a good center, a good leader, and a strong forward. When you’re crafting a brand new team, a third line wing with potential or a bottom six leader is much more attractive than a strictly fourth line fighter. For that reason alone, Reaves would have easily been looked over by Vegas.
Ryan Reaves played an important role in St. Louis. He was intimidating and was a bodyguard on the fourth line right wing. He wasn’t a point scorer, though, and he doesn’t have the potential to become one. For a new team like Vegas, Reaves’ play-style isn’t worth overlooking players like Jaskin and Brodziak. The Blues could’ve kept Reaves and Perron, which would’ve still left the option to trade Reaves away open.
They might’ve made the right move by losing Perron, though. Their lineup is relatively set in stone, and Perron might’ve been an awkward fit. He would’ve likely been demoted to third line play, which he doesn’t deserve after such a successful 2016-17 season. In Vegas, he’ll be one of the top forwards and carry a lot more responsibility. While it’s not guaranteed, this could’ve been the Blues way of giving Perron a better opportunity in the NHL.
If this is why they decided to leave him open, they did a great job of winning on both fronts. Not only did they lose Perron, they picked up two young players who will easily fill his role in the coming years. While it’s still hard to lose a player as good as Perron, and a fan favorite like Reaves, the Blues did a good job of covering their losses with the trades they made on draft day.