Blues fans anxiously await what’s in store for this season’s NHL Trade Deadline on February 29th. Arguably, what might be the most important day in the Doug Armstrong era for many reasons.
Doug Armstrong and the Blues’ front office have some tough decisions heading into the trade deadline. Not only are they trying to make this team better, but they’re trying to keep their jobs as well. If the Blues get bounced early in the playoffs again, there’s a real chance of Doug Armstrong getting fired along with head coach Ken Hitchcock. This situation is both good and bad for Blues fans. The good of the situation is simple, Armstrong’s job is on the line so he’s obviously going to do anything possible to help this team win now. The bad of this situation the “overpayment” route. Since Armstrong is on the hotseat and probably feeling pressure improve his team, if his negotiations aren’t going the way he wants, since he’s in win now mode, he could overpay by adding extra picks or high rated prospects.
The Blues will go into Monday’s deadline with a very little amount of cap space. I mentioned earlier in the week that due to both Alexander Steen and Brian Elliott going to IR and LTIR, the Blues could get a little creative if they wanted to by stashing one or both players on LTIR until the playoffs. The Blackhawks, for example, took advantage of this exact situation last season whenever they stashed Patrick Kane on LTIR until playoffs whenever the salary cap is lifted. This gave Chicago a bit more cap flexibility at the deadline whenever they acquired Antoine Vermette. However, even though this may be a good strategy, Doug Armstrong turns it down. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman tweeted me this when I mentioned the possibility of the Blues using the “stashing” strategy:
Since Armstrong isn’t going with the “stashing” strategy, as ESPN’s Craig Custace said, if the Blues are going to make a trade, it’s going to have to be dollar in – dollar out, making the process of trading NHL roster players even more difficult then it already is.
With that being said, I still expect the Blues to be somewhat active on deadline day. Some notable teams the Blues have scouted that have also scouted them include: BOS, ARZ, EDM, NYI, CAR, TOR, TB, CGY, CBJ, OTT, BUF, and MTL. An interesting group of teams considering it involves both “buyers” and “sellers”. Out of those teams, there are 13 players I could see the Blues potentially targeting.
I’ve broken them down into 2 groups of 6; the first group involving players that have the most realistic possibility of being moved to St. Louis, and the second group of players that would be considered more of a “stretch” to land in St. Louis.
The first group includes:
I’m going to break all of these players down, some more than others.
- Mikkel Boedker: Boedker is a 26 year old left winger that instantly makes a team’s forward group faster and more dynamic. Boedker is making $3.75 million this season and is in the final year of his contract and will be a UFA this summer. Reported by TSN’s Darren Dreger, “It’s believed Arizona has backed off a previously tabled offer to extend Boedker, which further supports the likelihood he will be traded.” Boedker can impact the game in the offensive zone in many ways, including on the powerplay. Boedker has tallied 3 goals and 15 assists, good enough for 18 powerplay points this season. The Blues could certainly use his speed on the wing, and I think he could provide much needed depth scoring during playoff time. Especially in the short term given what would be his increased role due to Steen’s injury. The Coyotes have cap space to take on some of his contract as well. Arizona Sports columnist and Coyotes writer, Craig Morgan told me the Blues are indeed interested in the speedy left winger, as are lots of other teams including rivals Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings.
- Leo Komarov: The Maple Leafs’ fire sale is expected to continue into Monday’s deadline. Komarov is a two-way, physical, all-around forward with a nice scoring touch. Having an impressive season with Toronto, I think Leo would fit well with the Blues. He brings a – dare I say – “reckless” game to the ice. He has 18 goals and 35 points and has produced that on one of the NHL’s worst teams. Komarov is good on special teams, playing on both the PP and PK for Toronto. He has 245 hits this season along with a 2.3 TA/GA ratio. Komarov has an attractive cap hit at $2.95 million. Not to mention he’s great friends with Vladimir Tarasenko.
- Kris Versteeg: Versteeg is another forward that instantly adds some speed to the forward group. He has great vision on the ice and good playmaking that could help the bottom 6 produce more. Versteeg also would be one of a few Blues with great playoff experience and could turn into a leader both on and off the ice for the Blues. He makes $2.35 million this season and will be a UFA over the summer.
- Jiri Hudler: Calgary’s 32 year old veteran Jiri Hudler would be a nice acquisition for St. Louis. He’s a versatile playmaker that can play both left wing and center. Hudler would improve the powerplay and maybe could spark other wingers such as Fabbri with his dynamic passing ability. Hudler is another forward that once everyone is healthy, could provide more production from the 2nd or 3rd line. Doug Armstrong was recently scouting Calgary and it’s reported by TSN’s Darren Dreger that Hudler is definitely in play at the deadline.
- Scott Hartnell: Hartnell has been on the Blues radar for awhile now, dating back to his Flyers days. Hartnell is a big forward that would fit perfectly on a Western Conference playoff team. Hartnell would gel well with the big forwards on the Blues such as Backes and Brouwer. He leads the Blue Jacket in scoring this season with 19 goals and 39 points. The 6’2 forward has also recorded 109 hits this season. Columbus can afford to eat some of Hartnell’s salary of the Blues indeed give the right return.
- Loui Eriksson: Loui Erkisson is the most interesting player at this year’s trade deadline, in my opinion. The 6’2 Sweedish forward is on pace for a 30 goal, 70 point season. Erkisson would instantly be the team’s 2nd leading scorer behind Vladimir Tarasenko and would make a great one-two punch. Eriksson is a UFA over the summer. Boston is in the market for a defenseman and the Blues have plenty of defensive depth. Bruins writer for CSNNE.com Joe Haggerty stated he believes Boston would give up Eriksson, a prospect, and a 1st round draft pick in 2016. Keep in mind Boston has two 1st round picks this summer after getting San Jose’s last summer for Martin Jones. However, ESPN New Hampshires’ and Boston Bruins writer, Shawn Hutcheon told me he doesn’t see Boston giving up more than Eriksson and a 1st for Shattenkirk. Eriksson is the type of player the Blues need to add at the deadline, a true goal scorer. Even Yahoo! Sports’ NHL writer, Greg Wyshynki suggests Loui Eriksson is the perfect fit for the Blues at the deadline.
The second group of players include:
Note: Some of these players may be more of a stretch for the Blues to acquire.
- Dale Weise: As ESPN’s Pierre Lebrun said, “You name a contender, I don’t know who couldn’t use Dale Weise.” Weise is a power forward that can help a lot of teams’ bottom 6 forwards. Like Hartnell, Weise would fit perfectly on any playoff team in the Western Conference. Weise is having a career year and has 14 goals on the season to go along with 108 hits. Minus the fact that he’s one of the toughest players to play against in the NHL, the best part of acquiring Weise is acquiring a small cap hit, just over $1 million. ESPN’s Craig Custance said one NHL GM told him the price on Weise is a 2nd and a 3rd round pick.
- Shane Doan: Captain Coyote may be on his way out of Arizona come Monday’s deadline. The 20 year vet could be traded to a contender in hopes of winning his first Stanley Cup. The 39 year old is on pace for a 30 goal season; his first 30 goal season since 2008-09. At 6’1 223, Doan is still a big body on the ice. He has 90 hits this season and would certainly rise to the occasion in the postseason. Doan would be a very nice fit with the Blues and they could use some extra leadership heading into the stretch run. Like I mentioned with Boedker, the Coyotes are have the cap available to take on some of Doan’s $4.55 million cap hit.
- Joe Colborne: Colborne isn’t necessarily a “stretch” but more of an “under the radar” guy. Big Joe comes in at 6’5 221 and is still just 26 years old. While he only has 9 goals and 22 points in a limited role this season, Colborne brings intensity to the ice. He’s an energy guy that could spark a team with any given shift by getting a big hit, dropping the gloves, or just getting to the dirty areas of the ice and making a play. He can play both wing and center and wins a fair amount of faceoffs at 57.6%. Colborne has 92 hits and 22 blocked shots. Since he only has a cap hit of $1.27 million, it would make for a nice, under the radar trade for the Blues.
- Nazem Kadri: While rumors swirled after Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said he’d be curious to see Kadri in a Blues jersey, the Maple Leaf would be a nice acquisition if the Blues could pull it off. Kadri has 11 goals and 32 points on the season. Kadri has great vision on the ice and is capable of scoring highlight reel goals. Kadri may or may not be apart of Toronto’s rebuilding plan but either way, he would be a nice name to bring in at the deadline.
- Kyle Okposo: Don’t get me wrong, Okposo is the biggest “stretch” out of the 13 players listed. Even though it’s more likely he’s dealt during the summer, you never know what’s in store for deadline day. Okposo has 15 goals and 46 points this season. Again, probably a summer trade but it would be arguably the biggest trade of the deadline if the Blues could pull it off with the Isles.
- Mika Zibanejad: The Blues and Sens have frequently been scouting eachother as of late. Zibanejad is a shify, creative forward. He’s still just 22 years old and with his playmaking ability and size, he could potentially turn into one of the Blues top forwards. Senators writer, Murray Pam told me Ottawa had interest in Patrik Berglund a few years ago whenever the Blues and Senators had talks regarding Jason Spezza. He also mentioned Ottawa would prefer players with term and pointed out players such as Jaskin and Rattie.
Of course, the thirteenth player on my list is obviously Tampa Bay’s Jonathan Drouin. I’m not going to break him down much considering I have wrote multiple times about him, but I will include an interesting quote. (You can read my Drouin to the Blues breakdown here: http://stlsportssociety.com/2016/02/18/possible-lightning-players-on-the-blues-radar) ESPN’s Pierre Lebrun on Drouin: “I think he’s going to be a magical player in this league. I think he’s got unbelievable, all-world hands.”
Stay tuned for an excited trade deadline weekend and look for my Trade Deadline preview follow-up in the coming days. Thanks for reading and you can follow me on Twitter @The_STG.