- Ryan S. Clark is an NHL reporter for ESPN.
The St. Louis Blues have traded winger Ivan Barbashev to the Vegas Golden Knights in a move featuring two teams going in different directions.
In return, the Blues pick up prospect center Zach Dean. A first-round pick of the Golden Knights in 2021, Dean has scored 24 goals and 49 points in 50 games in the QMJHL this season.
Potentially finding a two-way, top-nine forward became a priority when the Golden Knights announced Feb. 1 captain and left winger Mark Stone underwent a second surgery on his back in less than a year. Stone, who was injured Jan. 12, was initially ruled out indefinitely with the team later moving him to long-term injured reserve.
Sending Stone and his $9.5 million cap hit to LTIR in addition to trading Shea Weber’s contract last week meant the Golden Knights had the cap space to make a move. Vegas has gone 7-5-4 since Stone has been out of the lineup, but have also won six of their last eight games.
Enter Barbashev. The 27-year-old has 10 goals and 29 points in 59 games this season. He’s projected to finish this season with 14 goals and 40 points after scoring a career-high 26 goals and 60 points in 2021-22. Barbashev has also scored nine points in 50 playoff games. He is also a pending unrestricted free agent who is in the last of a two-year deal carrying a $2.25 million cap hit.
Barbashev’s arrival gives the Golden Knights a winger who can operate on both the penalty kill and the power play. It also means reinforcements for a team that came into Sunday with the best record in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference. Vegas holds a two-point lead over the Los Angeles Kings and are one of four Pacific teams separated by six points. As for the West, they also hold a two-point lead over the Dallas Stars for the best record in the conference.
Barbashev was one of the last few players remaining from the Blues’ Stanley Cup team in 2018-19 and his departure is the latest signal that St. Louis is a team in transition from the one that’s made the playoffs in four straight seasons. It started Feb. 9 when the Blues traded All-Star winger Vladimir Tarasenko to the New York Rangers. Both Tarasenko and defenseman Niko Mikkola went to the Rangers with forward Sammy Blais, prospect defenseman Hunter Skinner, a conditional 2023 first-round pick and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick going the other way.
On Feb. 18, the Blues sent captain Ryan O’Reilly to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a three-team deal. St. Louis also traded away forward Noel Acciari in the deal, which led to them getting forward Adam Gaudette, prospect center Mikhail Abramov, the Leafs’ 2023 first-round pick, the Ottawa Senators’ 2023 third-round pick and the Leafs’ 2024 second-round pick.
For the Blues, it gives a team that came into Sunday more than 12 points adrift of the final wild-card spot quite a bit of draft capital. Prior to the Barbashev trade, the Blues had nine picks in this year’s draft with three of them coming in the first round in addition to having nine picks for the 2024 draft.
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