The NHL Trade Deadline
All eyes are focused on the Olympics right now and rightfully so. The USA has been captivating to watch and matchups such as Russia against Canada keep hockey fans coming back for more. However, looming just over the horizon, is the all important NHL trade deadline on March 3rd. I’ve touched on the subject a few times over the past couple weeks and given my thoughts as to what might happen, but now it is time to get more serious on the matter. The Blues will need to improve in several areas if they hope to ever make a serious run at the Stanley Cup. Aside from scoring, the Blues will need a more prominent goaltender to lead their team as opposed to the current system.
The Blues return to action on March 2nd against Phoenix. Shortly after, the trade deadline will come and go on March 3rd. One would think that the outcome of the Phoenix game might influence what deals are arranged before the deadline, and that could certainly be the case. My money however is on the idea that the St. Louis front office, like all other front offices, have been very busy during this Olympic break. In reality, who knows what deals might already be near completion that have just been put on hold until the Olympic freeze is lifted.
Have the Blues been actively negotiating? My feeling is a big 100% yes. Whether they have reached any outcomes is a different matter, but I doubt the organization has been idle during the Olympics. With this in mind, what will we see? I’m not going to make any bold predictions – I’ll leave that to others (cough, Eklund, cough). I’d rather report and talk about what I know and not just churn out rumors that have no foundation in fact. That being said, I am all up for discussion and speculation. The Blues sit just outside the playoff picture (4 points) but more importantly sit behind four teams as well. The team is still very much in contention.
One name that has appeared regularly in trade rumors is Keith Tkachuk. Walt has been linked to numerous teams and would make a solid addition to a club that needs a guy that can hold his position at the top of the crease. However, Andy Strickland (from KFNS) has reported that Tkachuk would rather remain in St. Louis and retire as a Blue. Other sites have mentioned that Tkachuk doesn’t want to move too far from family just to serve out his time as a rental player, so to speak.
Still, I could see Tkachuk considering a move if it was to a team 1) in contention and more importantly 2) to his liking. His hometown, Boston, might be a fit for the second category, but far now I’d assume Walt will be staying here.
Looking beyond Tkachuk, the Blues have plenty of spare parts that could be packaged for fresh faces. The defense is a crowded group and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one go prior to the deadline.
Fans have mentioned their desire to move Paul Kariya and Brad Boyes but hefty salaries and lack of production have left few (if any) teams interested. Moving them is much easier said than done.
Other fans have stated they want the Blues to stand pat, and move forward with the faces we have currently. I’m on the fence with this one. Yes, I do think this team has greatly underachieved and is capable of winning games like we saw near the end of last year. However, I do not think the current group is capable of making a splash in the playoffs, assuming they reach them. In my opinion, there are several areas on this team that definitely need some upgrading.
The defense I really can’t say much about, as I feel Erik Johnson has plenty of room to grow and Roman Polak is just a beast back there. Maybe another puck moving defenseman would do the team well, but clearly there are other areas in much greater need of improvement.
I’m as big a Chris Mason fan as anyone, and I think the addition of Ty Conklin prior to this season was a great one. However, if the Olympic have shown us one thing it’s that a star goaltender makes an enormous difference on the ice. Currently the Blues have been using a tag team rotation of goalies that are realistically more backups than they are stars. Just look to Ryan Miller, Tomas Vokoun and the others involved in the Olympic competition and watch how they can change the shape of a game in a way that Mason and Conklin can’t – at least not on a regular basis.
Obviously, these goaltenders are extremely tough to find and have an enormous price tag when talking trade. However, this will be an area the Blues must address moving forward.
The Blues have scored the fewest goals since the lockout ended. It’s true – you can look it up yourself. The team hasn’t just lacked offense this year but in each of the past several seasons and will have to address this point as well. I imagine the front office thought they had this point addressed when bringing in Kariya, but injuries and age have destroyed that notion. The team needs a star – one that can move the puck and help create chances in any situation. The Blues right now have a lot of good parts/pieces, but currently no great ones. The youngsters could grow into the role, but likely will never reach the high-scoring ways the Blues could use.
So where does that leave us? Long term, the Blues need to add a star player to help run the offense and need a goalie that is not only reliable each night but can change the shape of a game on a more regular basis. These are extremely tough holes to fill as the price will be monstrous.
The trade deadline could see the Blues patch some of their holes (Tim Thomas could be on the move), but I look to the summer as the point when the real moves could go down.
The Blues need only look to the Olympics to see how pivotal having a star in net can be and how important it is to have a guy who can steal you a win (Ryan Miller).