St. Louis Blues should make Ivan Provorov a priority target

There are few worst-kept secrets in the NHL than the fact that the St. Louis Blues want to add a defenseman before the trade deadline. Throughout the season, every name known to be available has been discussed. Rumors suggest the team are interested in Ben Chiarot as well as Jakob Chychrun, and there’s no doubt the shopping list extends much further. The cap situation makes things difficult, but motivated teams usually find a way at the deadline.

Related: Blues Should Only Seek Deadline Rentals

During a recent episode of 32 thoughts: the podcast, Elliotte Friedman has suggested that the Philadelphia Flyers’ decision to extend Rasmus Ristolainen may be just the first step in a broad defensive restructuring. Shockingly, he suggested that said restructuring could involve the exchange of the young defender once considered the centerpiece of the franchise: Ivan Provorov. If this rumor is true, the Blues must pursue a trade for Provorov rather than any other defensive option.

Flyers Deal at a discount

It goes without saying, but no team trades a player like Provorov unless that player is underperforming, and he certainly is this season. Normally an offensive threat and the top defensive scorer, he has just 20 points with five goals. And even though he made a name for himself as a leading power-play quarterback on the left side, he only has four points with the man advantage. To make matters worse, he carries a rating of minus-9, and his expected goals for percentage (xGF%), a key marker for whether the flow of play is going in a player’s direction when he’s on the ice, is just 42.41 percent, ranking him in the bottom 25 percent of defensemen who have played more than 400 minutes.

Ivan Provorov, Philadelphia Flyers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Additionally, according to Friedman, Provorov is weighing his own future and whether he would prefer to remain a Flyer long-term. When the player and team wonder if they have a solid partnership, it’s pretty safe to say that they don’t. Hence the name Provorov which appears in the rumor at all. Otherwise, a 25-year-old defender drafted high in the first round on a manageable contract who controls much of his prime would never be available in the first place.

The Blues need to reshape the defense

There’s no doubt that the Blues need help from the left side of defence. In fact, Friedman co-host Jeff Marek said much later in the chat when they were talking about Travis Sanheim, another defender general manager, Doug Armstrong, should ask if Provorov’s price tag is too much. raised. Marek suggested that whenever he hears about a potential defender in the market he thinks of the Blues, and it’s not hard to see why. The franchise has historically been built on a defensive identity, but in recent years the identity of the Blues has evolved. They’ve become a much more offensive team, with one of the strongest power plays in the League and a barrage of talented young players making a major impact, including Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas and Pavel Buchnevich.

With a group of players 25 or younger forming a new core of the team, the team’s defense is not only deteriorating, but aging rapidly. Torey Krug, Justin Faulk and Colton Parayko all now have long and expensive contracts that will carry them into their thirties, the kind of contracts that can quickly become an albatross for teams that want to keep evolving. It might be easy enough to ignore if this season’s results were exceptional, but they are not: the Blues are in the bottom third of the league in xGF%, Corsi in percentage (CF%) and chance percentage of high hazard (HDCF%) . They need help on the left side in particular, and Parayko needs another top partner who can take on his burden and eat up a lot of minutes.

Provorov an ideal fit

Despite the obvious need for the Blues, I have argued in the past that the Blues should not pursue a young defender like Jakob Chychrun because he alone would not solve the team’s problems and would cost them a small fortune. So what makes Provorov different? First and foremost, at his best, Provorov is an elite all-around defenseman, not just a puck passer and scorer. That’s not to negate Chychrun’s defensive skills, but Provorov spent more time playing defense at a higher level in a more competitive squad, eating more minutes. Moreover, the Russian defender is incredibly durable. Until COVID protocol forced him to miss three games earlier this season, he had gone his entire 403-game career without missing a single game.

Finally, the circumstances and potential GM matchups should make Provorov easier to acquire than Chychrun. Although the Coyotes are clearly in the rebuilding phase, they still aren’t under any pressure to trade Chychrun. They will eventually, but it could be this summer or next season on the deadline. If Provorov is actively unhappy and the Flyers want to reshape their defense, they need to move him quickly before his value drops even further. And what better place could he go to call home and regain his swagger than the team tied for the most Russian players in the NHL? That alone isn’t enough to trade for Provorov, but it’s hard to deny that Buchnevich, Ivan Barbashev and Vladimir Tarasenko are all having stellar seasons and becoming fast friends.

Jakob Chychrun Arizona Coyotes
Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes, is a top defenseman, but he’ll cost a ton at the trade deadline (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Also, while Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong has proven to be a shrewd negotiator and knows the Blues pipeline like the back of his hand, Flyers general manager Chuch Fletcher, to be blunt, has did not represent himself or his team well in business discussions. Doug Armstrong (no relation) has the upper hand in most business negotiations: he’s a seasoned professional who rarely loses business. But trading Fletcher for a player he’s desperate to move could be almost unfair.

Can Armstrong make it work?

Despite the obvious adjustment, the possible discount and the Blues’ clear desire to improve, executing this trade will be difficult. Unless the Flyers are willing to make a “hockey” trade for a player like Tarasenko, who would still be looking for a trade, the implications of the salary cap will be difficult. A staggered option would be a deal that includes one of the Blues’ current top defensemen returning to Philadelphia. It seems like an odd suggestion, but both teams need a big change in defense, and sometimes new faces in new places can trigger a quick turnaround. It may be difficult, but if Provorov is truly available, then Armstrong must be “all out” to investigate the deal and do his best to make it a reality.

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