Waiting for the NHL Trade Deadline
For St. Louis, few things have been as surprising this season as the team’s shootout victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday afternoon. The Blues were completely outplayed but thanks to a huge effort from Jaroslav Halak, the Blues walked away with two rather undeserved points. Now the team, and its fans, turn their attention to the trade deadline set for Monday at 2:00pm Central. Will the Blues surprise and make a deal or two now that they have suffered some key injuries? Will they stand pat as they have claimed they will in recent weeks? We’ll soon find out.
What the Blues Need
The Blues could use a top-6 forward that’s capable of finding the back of the net. This is a tough request as nearly every team in the NHL is after the exact same thing. The Blues appeared to be making due with the current squad but injuries to Alex Steen, Matt D’Agostini and Jamie Langenbrunner have recently left the club relying on some AHL depth.
With Langenbrunner out of the lineup, the Blues are suddenly lacking on veteran experience and leadership on the ice. Unfortunately, those traits won’t come cheap.
The Blues could also use an experienced defenseman – something that also will be pretty tough to find. A recent concussion-like injury to Kris Russell make this need greater now than ever before. There have been rumors connecting the team to Roman Hamrlik of the Washington Capitals, but that currently has just been speculation.
What the Blues can Sell
Unless you’re totally new to following hockey or the St. Louis Blues, you know Ben Bishop is a piece the Blues will eventually be parting with either before Monday’s deadline or after the 2011-12 season concludes. The Blues made this decision when they signed Brian Elliott to a two-year extension, blocking Bishop’s road to the NHL. This is a matter of “when” and not “if”.
Aside from the obvious in Bishop it’s unclear which skaters the team is willing to part with. The club has plenty of players with contracts set to expire – 10 to be exact.
Unrestricted Free Agents
It’s pretty tough envisioning a deal that sends any of these players out of St. Louis this year. Odds are we will see some members of this group leaving over the summer but likely not prior.
Restricted Free Agents
This group is a lot more interesting. While the Blues have worked on other contracts during the year (Elliott, Ryan Reaves) they haven’t made any decisions on Perron, Oshie and Stewart. Perron has just recently recovered from a serious injury, Oshie has proved himself with a very solid year lacking any off ice issues and Stewart has been mostly disappointing, barring his recent stretch of games.
Stewart has found himself at the heart of trade talks but are the Blues willing to give up on him already? I’m not so sure, but we can’t rule anything out.
Why the Blues WILL Trade
The Blues have areas they should address if they hope to be a true Cup contender. Recent injuries have forced the Blues call upon AHL depth that likely won’t be handle the pressure of an NHL playoff run. The team could gamble that Steen, D’Agostini and Langenbrunner will be able to play in the playoffs (assuming the Blues get there), but that’s a risky gamble to take.
The Blues have stated they don’t have any intention of making a move at the deadline but this was before the team saw a few key members of their squad succumb to the injury bug. The club’s statement should also be taken with a whopping grain of salt as they have proven in the past that they will make unexpected deals at unexpected times (Erik Johnson deal). If the team sees an upgrade and the price is right, they will strike.
Why the Blues WON’T Trade
Unfortunately, the WON’T section has a lot more to it than the WILL column.
The first and most obvious issue is money. The Blues do not have an owner and as a result have an extremely limited budget with almost no wiggle room. Barring some sort of huge surprise the Blues won’t be taking on any contracts that even flirt with the “medium” or “big” label.
The market is also pretty poor for all buyers. Due to the extremely lopsided market this season, buyers will have to pay a premium for even the most mediocre acquisitions. It will take talent to get talent.
The Waiting Game
So we wait. The trade deadline is fun as you never know what might happen around the league. The Blues may shock everyone and make a deal no one saw coming. They might also stand pat, allowing the action to take place around them in the hopes that their injured skaters are able to make a full recovery in time for the playoffs.
Like in previous years, I’ll run a Live Blog starting late Sunday night to track all the rumors/speculation/rumblings as the deadline approaches. Be sure to tune in and join in the discussion.