ST. LOUIS – Doug Armstrong is the longest-tenured general manager in St. Louis Blues history and the only one to bring a Stanley Cup to St. Louis.
After an uncharacteristic season under his helm, one in which the Blues missed the playoffs for just the second time in 12 years, there appear to be some rumblings he could be on the move.
NOTE: Video attached to this story is from an April 16, 2023 end-of-the-season presser with Armstrong, unrelated to two new reports cited this story.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are scrambling to find a new general manager just days after parting ways with Kyle Dubas. Toronto won just one playoff series under his GM efforts over five years, even with high-profile players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander throughout his tenure.
The Maple Leafs, an “Original 6” franchise, have the longest active drought without a Stanley Cup title (56 years), a misfortune they shared with the Blues before their 2019 championship. Toronto has a rich hockey history, passionate fans and some big contract decisions coming up with players like Matthews, Marner and Nylander. All of that considered, the franchise doesn’t have too much time to waste with filling its GM void.
It’s not always easy to find a general manager with experience. Though at least two hockey analysts have hinted that Doug Armstrong, an Ontario native also serving as GM for Canada’s squad in the IIHF World Championship, could be a strong fit.
James Mirtle, a senior content producer for The Athletic NHL, was among the first to suggest the Leafs could pursue Armstrong. Sportsnet hockey insider Elliotte Friedman also noted a possible link between the Maple Leafs and Armstrong in a podcast.
In any case this would be considered, the Maple Leafs and Blues would need to reach some sort of agreement. For one, the Blues would likely seek some compensation after signing Armstrong to a lengthy contract extension just two years ago. Also, there would probably be certain parameters set for the offseason approaches with the Blues and Leafs to prevent collusion.
The Blues have actually dealt with a situation like this themselves, but it was decades ago and on the receiving end. St. Louis was ordered to pay a $250,000 fine after negotiating to bring on Mike Keenan as a general manager and coach of the Blues. The Blues also ended up trading forward Petr Nedved to the New York Rangers as part of the settlement, while Keenan also paid tens of thousands in fines to the Rangers and the NHL.
Different times and different circumstances, but perhaps something similar would need to happen from the Leafs end if they intend to split Armstrong from the Blues.
The other stipulation that would need to be ironed out is Armstrong’s exact role with the Maple Leafs. Armstrong also holds the title of President of Hockey Operations with the Blues. Right now, former Blues forward Brendan Shanahan holds that role with the Maple Leafs and, in theory, could have more power over Toronto roster decisions than Armstrong without any changes.
Armstrong, coming off a frustrating Blues season, reiterated several times that he didn’t want St. Louis to fall into a complete “rebuild” mode like struggling teams in the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets. However, he ended up trading longtime stars and two pending free agents, Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly, weeks before the trade deadline, alluding to a time of transition for the franchise.
The 58-year-old admitted in his first offseason presser that this season was the most disconnected he felt with players within the organization.
“It’s my job to get it more,” said Armstrong on April 16. “My summer project, is to work with people to find out how do you get to these guys, what makes them tick?”
Armstrong has yet to publicly comment on rumors that link him to Toronto. He is currently on a five-year deal with the Blues that would allow him to hold office through 2026.
Prior to joining the Blues, Armstrong he spent 16 years with the Dallas Stars, winning a Stanley Cup as assistant general manager in 1999.