There was a lot of shock when Pavel Buchnevich was traded to St. Louis. That shock turned into anger when fans saw the minuscule return. The Rangers traded their first line right wing for a fourth liner and a second round draft pick.
For now, the move is still considered questionable, despite Buchnevich subsequently signing a four-year contract with the Blues at an AAV of $5.8 million. How this trade will ultimately be judged is what Chris Drury does next to improve the roster with that cap savings.
What did the Rangers get in Sammy Blais
In exchange for Buchnevich, the Rangers got more bottom six grit in Sammy Blais (pronounced Blay). The 6-2, 205 lbs winger is a straight up and down physical player who can chip in offensively. This past season he recorded 15 points in 36 games. Over the last two seasons, he’s thrown 258 hits in 76 games played. A pure hard-nosed physical presence.
The real key here for the Rangers is his salary at just $1.5 million. The 25 year-old will be an RFA with arbitration rights in the summer of 2022.
But what did they really get?
A whole lot of potential and inconsistency. Enough so that he spent a lot of time as a healthy scratch for Craig Berube. That usually happens when you have the talent to take it to another level, yet can’t seem to get it done game in and game out.
Blais helped the Blues win the Stanley Cup
So why did Drury get Blais? Maybe he watched what the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Blues and saw something special.
Berube inserted the kid into Game 6 of their second round series against the Stars. It worked with him scoring in his playoff debut and helping the Blues avoid elimination.
“Size, ability with the puck, we like Sammy a lot,” Berube said as to why he finally inserted him into the lineup. “Sammy just has that attitude and big moments like this don’t bother him. He can handle the pressure.”
He finished that series and then played every single game for the rest of that run, including Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Bruins.
Blais played a total of 15 games and averaged 11:58 as a fourth line grind guy in 2019. He scored only three points but was hard to play against. The then 22 year-old registered 70 hits, 6 takeaways, with only 4 giveaways. Simply put, he played playoff hockey and has a Stanley Cup ring on his hand to show for his hard work.
It’s hard to say if Blais will even win a 4th line spot this season, but he appears to be a Gerard Gallant type player. He’s also what Drury has been stressing; a physical player that knows his role every time he jumps over the boards.
There’s no doubt that the Blues got the better player in Buchnevich. But winning the Stanley Cup is like a jigsaw puzzle with varying pieces of different shapes and sizes. In the end, if Blais is even a small piece to that end, the Rangers did alright.
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