Fixing The Blues Hole At Center
Derek Roy, Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, Alexander Steen, and Steve Ott all have something in common from this past season. It's NOT that they are all Blues, that is a given. All five of them saw time playing on the Blues second line, trying to fill the hole at center.
However, none of them fit the bill for the Blues. Steen is gifted enough offensively, can certainly win his fair share of face-offs, but he is more suited to play on the wing.
Derek Roy's offensive game disappointed the majority of the season and his defensive deficiencies were to glaring to play at center. He was relegated to being a power play specialist and was heavily sheltered on the third line wing.
Steve Ott, Patrik Berglund, and Vladimir Sobotka are all strong third line centers, and they could fill in sparingly in case of injuries, but all lack the offensive capabilities to be a top six center.
The Blues need to bring someone in who can provide the offense necessary to stay in a top six role. They don't have a prospect ready to step up into any center role in the minors and they will have to look outside the organization for help filling the gaping hole in the middle of their line up.
There are a handful of centers coming into the market via free agency who the Blues can look at, as well as trade options for the Blues as well. Here are my top three picks for the Blues to sign/acquire to fill the hole at center.
1. Paul Stastny - The clear choice for the Blues sign this off-season is St. Louis native, Stastny. Having the abilities to provide offense on his own and his more than capable two-way play makes him a perfect fit to join the Blues. He is an unrestricted free agent this off-season who could literally be had for nothing but a contract.
He would be the perfect fit to slide in between Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. He has the play making ability to allow Tarasenko to be the sniper he is clearly blossoming into. His offensive skills and passing ability would also suit Jaden Schwartz who plays a strong all around game, much like Stastny does.
2. Jason Spezza - Spezza is a different breed of center, who unlike Stastny, doesn't have as strong defensive capabilities. He does however boast a much stronger offensive game. His passing abilities are the best of any available options and would be the number one center in regarding straight offense.
Other than his lack of defensive capabilities, his injury history has to be looked at. Spezza has a history with back and groin problems, which could severely hamper his offensive game. You don't want to acquire a top line center, only to see him miss half the year with injury. The pros and cons must be weighed before acquiring a player such as Spezza.
We also have to look at the potential package it would take to acquire Spezza. Would you want to send a guy like Shattenkirk, a prospect such as Jordan Schmaltz and a draft pick to Ottawa? If the Blues could sway the Senators to taking a player like Berglund, along with a better prospect such as Ty Rattie and a draft pick, would you prefer that? There are always questions regarding a potential trade, and the question has to be asked, is it worth it?
3. Mikhail Grabovski - The wild card to be signed would be Grabovski. He possesses a two-way game that would fit well with Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, and he has the passing ability to fit well in between Schwartz and Tarasenko. The only question is, would his offense be enough to allow Backes to play in a shut down role, or would he only join the limbo of centers to pass through while failing to fill the void the Blues so desperately need to fill.
He would be a reclamation signing if Spezza couldn't be acquired and if Stastny re-signed with Colorado. He would be the type of player you try and sign to a one year deal to see if he'd be a good fit before offering any sort of term.
There are other options as well. Eric Staal, Joe Thornton, and Nazem Kadri are all rumored to be on the trading block, but the price to acquire said players may be to high or their salaries may price themselves out of St. Louis all together.
The point remains the same, however. The Blues have to fill a hole that has haunted them for year. The biggest question is, who will it be?