What I'm hearing about Blues' next moves for NHL Draft, free agency after trade for Alexandre Texier

The Athletic has live coverage of the 2024 NHL Draft.

LAS VEGAS — The only thing that’s guaranteed this weekend is that the St. Louis Blues will be coming home with center Alexandre Texier and a few new prospects.

The Blues acquired Texier in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets for a fourth-round draft pick in 2025 on Friday afternoon. In turn, they subsequently signed him to a two-year, one-way contract ($2.1 million average annual value).

Texier, 24, was the Blue Jackets’ second-round pick in 2017. The 6-foot-1, 201-pound left-shot forward is listed as a center but is considered a Swiss Army knife who can play all three positions. In 201 NHL games, he has 34 goals and 79 points. In 2022-23, he went to Europe to rehab an injury and stayed the entire season with Zurich SC of the Swiss League. He returned to Columbus last season and had 12 goals and 30 points in 78 games.

Texier can play up and down the lineup and is a strong penalty-killer, but he was squeezed out of the top of the Blue Jackets’ lineup and made expendable.

Since the draft pick sent to Columbus is for 2025, the Blues still have nine picks in the NHL Draft, which begins at 6 p.m. CT Friday at The Sphere.

The big question is whether they’ll package any of those picks to move up from No. 16 overall in the selection order.

On Thursday, the San Jose Sharks traded the Nos. 14 and 42 overall picks — a first- and second-rounder — to the Buffalo Sabres for the No. 11 pick.

That was interesting because the Blues have Nos. 48 and 56 in the second round, and fans have been clamoring for Doug Armstrong’s club to turn Nos. 16 and 48 into a higher first-round pick.

That may be possible, as the New Jersey Devils have been vocal about being willing to trade the No. 10 pick. But with both of San Jose’s two picks in the trade with Buffalo being higher than the Blues’ selections, it’s hard to see a scenario in which Armstrong could find a way to move into the Top 10 with just the two picks.

In Corey Pronman’s final mock draft for The Athletic, he projected the Sharks to take Saginaw Spirits defenseman Zayne Parekh with the No. 11 pick, which is perhaps who they had in mind when they made the swap.

While the Blues would have an appetite to trade up and take one of the top defensemen in the draft, if they can’t get one of them, it would be on-brand for them to wait for the best player available at No. 16. They did that last summer, scooping up Dalibor Dvorsky at No. 10; in 2022 with Jimmy Snuggerud at No. 23; in 2021 with Zack Bolduc at No. 17; and in 2020 with Jake Neighbours at No. 26.

So despite a glaring need in their prospect pool for potential top-four defensemen, they have stood pat and taken a forward in the first round in each of the past four drafts. That could be the case again Friday.

With that as the backdrop, let’s get into what I’m hearing about the Blues’ other plans ahead of the NHL Draft.

The Blues acknowledged having met with Pavel Buchnevich’s agent, Todd Diamond, at the NHL Combine in Buffalo earlier this month. The 29-year-old forward is entering the final year of his four-year, $23.2 million contract ($5.8 million) in 2024-25 and is eligible to sign an extension Monday.

A league source said Tuesday that the two sides would have a better idea about the situation by the end of the week, but while there’s no update yet, the club and the camp are still talking.

As I’ve reported and Armstrong mentioned recently, term is going to be the challenge in these talks. Buchnevich wants a long-term contract, perhaps a maximum eight-year deal that carries an $8 million AAV.

The Blues, according to multiple team and league sources, prefer a term in the neighborhood of five years, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they would go longer.

They’ll continue to hash that out to see if it’s possible to have an agreement when the window opens for him to re-sign. It may not happen right away, but the bottom line is that the Blues are interested in extending Buchnevich and in discussions.

If the club doesn’t feel like a deal is attainable, though, it could try to trade him now instead of waiting for the trade deadline March 8.

On another trade front, Torey Krug remains a candidate to be moved.

After Krug invoked his full no-trade clause to block a deal to the Philadelphia Flyers last summer, there has been no indication that the 33-year-old defenseman will be willing to waive his NTC this summer.

However, Krug may have at least some incentive to do so. He has three more years left on his contract ($6.5 million AAV) and has complete control of his destination at this point. But next summer, Krug’s protection changes to a modified NTC, in which he’ll have a 15-team no-trade list, so he’ll have less say.

If you’re wondering about the chances of the Blues buying out the remainder of Krug’s contract, anything is possible. But remember Armstrong said recently that the buyout option wasn’t on the front burner for anyone on the roster.

There have been two buyouts in the NHL already — the Dallas Stars executed the second buyout of veteran defenseman Ryan Suter’s career, and the Philadelphia Flyers parted ways with forward Cam Atkinson. But in those cases, the financial hit was not nearly as costly as it would be with Krug because of the length remaining on the deals. The Stars are picking up the final year of Suter’s contract ($3.65 million cap hit), and the Flyers are buying out the last year of Atkinson’s ($5.875 million).

In Krug’s case, the Blues would be buying out the final three years of his deal, in which he’s owed $21 million. They would be responsible for $14 million for a savings of $7 million. The cap hit, according to CapFriendly, would be $12,499,998 over the course of six years, with a year-by-year breakdown of $333,333 in 2024-25, $2,333,333 in ’25-26, $2,833,333 in ’26-27 and then back to $2,333,333 in ’27-28, ’28-29 and ’29-30.

If the Blues are unable to move Krug via trade and decide against buying him out, one league source said the team may be looking into the possibility of moving defenseman Justin Faulk.

Like Krug, Faulk has three years remaining on his contract ($6.5 million AAV). But while his cap hit is the same, Faulk’s actual salary for the last three years is $4.75 million in ’24-25 and $4.5 million in ’25-26 and ’26-27. That could make him a little more attractive on the trade market if that’s the avenue the team pursued.

Also like Krug, though, Faulk has a full NTC that gives him all the leverage this summer before turning into a modified NTC (15-team no-trade list) next summer.

In other tidbits:

• In responding to questions about the possibility of the Blues trading Brandon Saad, I’ve heard nothing along those lines.

• And finally, per a league source, there have been no talks yet about a contract extension this summer for Jake Neighbours, who’s in the final year of his deal and will be a restricted free agent next summer if still unsigned.

ANAHEIM, CA – APRIL 7: Pavel Buchnevich #89 of the St. Louis Blue, Jordan Kyrou #25 and Torey Krug #47 meet on the ice during the first period against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on April 7, 2024 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top