Last night the St. Louis Blues announced that they had acquired veteran defenseman Jay Bouwmeester from the Calgary Flames, but while the excitement set in for St. Louis Blues fans and management, Blues GM Doug Armstrong knows that he now has to make a difficult decision. The trade rumors around the St. Louis Blues have been posted everywhere from Western Canada to the Southeastern United States, but no one has guessed the return that Armstrong would be able to get for what he has given up. Many think that David Perron may be on his way out of St. Louis as well, but it is likely that Armstrong will make a change to his defense again before his offense.
The St. Louis Blues came into the night with 8 defensemen on their 23 man roster and left with 9. The Blues have to make a difficult decision as to who to send to Peoria or who to move out of the Gateway to the West. So what options do the Blues have moving forward, well there are a few, but let’s focus on what the Blues could do on the back end to open up a spot.
Ian Cole is the most likely player that is out of a job at the moment, but it is not as simple as some fans believe. While Cole is still on his entry-level contract, he has played enough games at the NHL level that he will have to pass through waivers in order to send him back to the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL. It is highly doubtful that Armstrong is willing to take a chance on Cole getting claimed in a market that is searching for defensemen anywhere they can. If the Blues were willing to risk Cole being on waivers surely when Jordan Leopold was acquired the Blues would have sent Cole to the minors and kept Jake Allen up with the Blues, but they didn’t. So while Armstrong may not willing to give Cole away, could he trade him? With Leopold and Bouwmeester on the roster, it is hard to believe that Cole will be making the starting roster anytime soon. The Blues will have Bouwmeester, Leopold, and Barret Jackman on the left side, so Cole would be a great candidate for a trade. Needing time to develop, Cole could possibly find time playing with a team that is already out of the playoff race or needs a decent bottom pairing defenseman. Given that the Blues have sent their first round pick out for this season, Armstrong could be looking for a high end pick for Cole.
Wade Redden was picked up by the St. Louis Blues when there were no veteran left-handed defensemen available. Originally Redden was thought to be able to play alongside of Alex Pietrangelo, but he has been inconsistent for most of the season. While Redden is not the best defenseman for the Blues, he has a good amount of playoff experience and could help the team if they make a playoff run. Should the Blues choose to send Redden through waivers, it is almost certain that a team would take a chance on Redden given his affordable salary and low cap hit. He is a low risk, high reward player, but could the Blues get anything for him in the trade market? The answer is probably not. Redden will most likely stay with the Blues until the end of the season and then be looking for a new place to call home.
Kris Russell had a terrible start to the season, but seems to have found his game. If the Blues could make a move to trade Russell while he is playing well they could reap the benefits. How much Russell is worth is open to debate, but the Blues could get a second or third round draft pick which is nothing to shy away from in this upcoming draft class. While the Blues may opt to keep Russell due to his ties with Hitchcock, Russell might find himself the odd man out. Don’t look for the Blues to chance placing Russell on waivers though.
While no one is certain what the Blues will choose to do in order to open up a spot for Bouwmeester, you have to think that the most logical choice is finding a way to move Ian Cole. In the inflated trade market the Blues might be able to pick up a first or second round draft pick for Cole and be in a win-win situation. Cole is going to be a solid NHL defender one day, but that requires him to be playing every night and have a definite role. Cole won’t have that chance with the Blues for the next few season assuming that the Blues resign Leopold in the offseason. If Cole were moved, one would think the defense would look like this
Coach Ken Hitchcock would most likely play around with Jackman and Leopold to see which would be best suited for playing on the second pairing with Shattenkirk, but give his high level of play as of late, I believe that he deserves a chance to play with his typical partner. Either way, the Blues defense is stacked and looks to be one of the best in the Western Conference. We will have to wait and see how GM Doug Armstrong handles this situation, but let’s hope that it comes with a return to the St. Louis Blues in the form of a prospect or a high draft pick.
LET’S GO BLUES!