Jaden Schwartz Ready to Leave College, Play for the Blues
UPDATE: Jaden Schwartz has signed and will join the Blues immediately
. There are big stories and then there are enormous stories. This one falls under the latter category. Andy Strickland
reports that Jaden Schwartz has elected to not return to college and is interested in playing for the Blues - now. Strickland reports that talks are underway between Schwartz's agent and Gm Doug Armstrong in an attempt to sign the immensely talented prospect to a contract. Could we see Schwartz at the NHL level in 2011-12? It's a possibility.
I don't envy the decision the Blues will have to make in this situation. Schwartz is a hugely talented prospect. He is a first-round pick that captained Team Canada in the World Junior Championships. Scouts believe his game is ready for the NHL but he has yet to play in any regular season competition above the collegiate level.
This is a big gamble for the Blues. They could sign Schwartz and let him finish out the 2011-12 season in Peoria. This is the safe route and is one that would allow Schwartz to make a big step toward the professional level and allow the Blues to gather more information on the forward before throwing him right into the fire. On the other hand, the Blues could plug Schwartz right into the lineup and potentially have an immediate upgrade. The risk comes in the unknown.
In recent posts, I've talked about how the Blues have several players nearing full health (D'Agostini, Russell, Steen) and will have tough decisions to make based on which skaters will play and which won't, all the while trying to balance team chemistry that has launched the Blues into first place. Now with Schwartz ready to walk from the college game the Blues have another tough decision ahead of them. Obviously, they need to sign Schwartz to a contract first but assuming they do, where will they play him?
In my opinion, I'd like to see Schwartz in Peoria. As much as I'd love to see him in NHL action I don't think now is the proper time. The Blues are in the last stretch of the 2011-12 season and have the playoffs staring them in the eye. They are replenishing their depth with each healthy body that returns, the latest being Jaime Langenbrunner. Including the new healthy bodies and the current cast of characters we have seen, there aren't many question marks. We know what to expect from the current group. Schwartz is a gamble - a big one at that. I don't think now is the time to tinker with what is working with a player that has never played in an NHL game. I'm all for big risk, big reward situations but I don't think it'd be smart to take out a player from the lineup that has been helping the club win for a new face.
I can't wait to see what happens. Stay tuned.