The St. Louis Blues are a team on the verge of making a push down the stretch, but are one or two bad moves away from being out of playoff contention. While the success of the Blues last season had fans expecting something huge this year, the goaltending and defense that led the Blues last year seems to have fallen off. While the problems on the Blues’ defensive game seem to mount, their offense seems to have recaptured their momentum, but the streaky goal scoring is still an issue.
With the trade deadline just days away, St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong could look to improve his team at the deadline, but after shipping Matt D’Agostini for little in return to the New Jersey Devils, who could be the next player shipped out of town? There are four types of players that could be on the block. The first are restricted free agents, players who would not be lost for nothing, but could no longer be needed on this roster. The second are unrestricted free agents, players who could walk at the end of the season or not be asked to come back and would be lost for nothing. The third are players that have fallen out of grace with the team or could no longer be needed for long term success. The final group are those who have yet to join the St. Louis Blues, these prospects could be moved in order to bring a better return now.
So let’s briefly review some of the these players that may be on the trading block and available in the open market.
Restricted Free Agents
Mar 5, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov (26) and St. Louis Blues center Patrik Berglund (21) go for the puck in the second period at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Patrik Berglund has had a good year, but he has yet to become the first line center that the Blues had hoped he would one day be. Sometimes he appears sluggish on the ice and he has a tendency to make careless plays, but when he is on top of his game he does very well. The Blues and their fans seem to go back and forth with Berglund, but perhaps his greatest strength for the Blues is his health. Berglund tends to be injury free and if he can be a reliable second or third line center he may still be of use to this club. With big names to resign in the offseason, Armstrong will have to weigh whether or not the team can afford to keep carrying Berglund on the roster. If he could be used to bring in a solid left handed defenseman with experience, Army could pull the trigger. The Blues could also look to package Berglund with picks to get a solid center, but that is much less likely given the asking cost for top end centers.
Kris Russell started this season looking like he would not have a roster spot, but his play of late has truly improved and the Blues might have the chance to move him while he is playing well. Russell has great speed and offensive skill, but his smaller stature does not fit the Blues’ style of play. Lots of rumors could circulate for Russell, but Hitchcock has an attachment and Armstrong won’t move him unless it improves this team.
Ian Cole is not ready for NHL duty and another year in the AHL would have truly helped his development, but the Blues had no choice and have kept him on the NHL roster. The organization still has a great young player in Cole, but he is not ready for top 4 duty just yet. I would be surprised if Armstrong sent him packing, but if a big time D-Man was coming back in return it could be easy to send him on his way.
Tyler Shattock has just 40 points in 189 games while playing in the AHL. This season, Shattock was sent down to the Evanville Icemen for a stint as well which saw him play just three games in the ECHL putting up five points. While Shattock hasn’t made his way into the NHL yet in his career, he could be worth a very low draft pick if Armstrong chose to move him. While his value is low, the Blues may opt to keep him on their AHL team as he has had some decent success in Peoria and is still just 23 years old.
Jan 5, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; Edmonton Oilers right wing Ryan Jones (28) knocks the puck away from St. Louis Blues defenseman Cade Fairchild (82) during the third period at the Scottrade Center. The Blues defeated the Oilers 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Cade Fairchild made his way into the NHL roster a few times last season (five games in which he managed to post an assist for his only NHL ponit) and many thought that he could be the next big addition to the St. Louis Blues roster. While Fairchild still needs to spend time in the AHL before he will be ready for the NHL, he does have 42 points in 111 AHL games. If Doug Armstrong needed to include a somewhat proven prospect, Fairchild could be moved. With little chance of making it back into the NHL with the Blues, Fairchild would have a better chance at becoming a full time NHL player elsewhere.
Philip McRae has shown that he has talent and could be ready to break into a full time NHL job soon. Last season in Peoria McRae looked incredible, but this season he has experienced a large drop in production. Still, through 162 games in the AHL McRae has posted an impressive 42 goals and 41 assists for 83 total points. While his stock is falling this season, the Blues may still be able to move the youngster and get a decent pick in return. McRae could also become part of a package deal if the Blues make the move to bring in a big name player.
Evgeny Grachev didn’t work out with the New York Rangers and the St. Louis Blues took a chance on him. He spent some time with the NHL club last season but hasn’t returned since. With 97 points in 178 games in the AHL and just four points in 34 games in the NHL, Grachev would be a great addition to a package deal if the Blues wanted to make a big move. Otherwise, I see the Blues hanging onto the Russian winger a little longer as his playing style seems to mesh well with the team, but Armstrong will have to decide what he is worth very soon.
Paul Karpowich is a prospect goaltender that seems to have no place in the St. Louis Blues system. Playing in just one AHL game, Karpowich hasn’t exactly had an opportunity to prove himself, but with a 3.27 goals-against-average and just a .900 save percentage in the ECHL this season, he will most likely not be brought back into the Blues system. If there was a team willing to take the 24 year old netminder the Blues would surely take the opportunity to move him.
Brett Sonne has played in the AHL since 2009 and hasn’t managed to crack the NHL squad at any point in his career. Earlier this season, Sonne was sent to the Icemen of the ECHL but only stayed for seven games after posting seven points. The 23 year old center has played 261 games in the AHL and put up just 62 points. The Blues have stayed with Sonne since drafting him in the third round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, but it may be time to part ways with him. If the Blues can’t move Sonne they could keep him on the roster to fill a role at the AHL level, but look for him to be wearing the note anytime soon.
Anthony Nigro has 167 AHL games under his belt, but was also sent to the Icemen earlier this season. After an extended period in the ECHL, Nigro was called back up, but he has yet to prove that he is progressing in his career. A sixth round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2008, the Blues might not need this left winger next season. If Armstrong could package him in a deal, I think he would jump on the chance.
Jay Barriball has played just 36 games in the AHL and hasn’t proven that he should be at the level needed to play for the Rivermen. I would expect the Blues are looking to part ways with Barriball, but can they get anything in return? It is unlikely that they could get anything for the winger, but don’t put it past Armstrong not to try.
Feb 17, 2013; Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA; St. Louis Blues defenseman Taylor Chorney (43) watches a shot on Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo (1) during the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Taylor Chorney spent a decent amount of time in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers, but the Blues claimed him off of waivers, only to lose him on the waiver wire later. Then the Blues took the chance and resigned him this season. A second round pick in 2005, Chorney still has a bit of upside to him and the Blues will surely want to keep him. Armstrong would be willing to part with him though if he could get a decent draft pick in return.
Stefan Della Rovere has played seven games in the NHL but has failed to really prove anything. He has bounced from the AHL to NHL back to the AHL, all the way down to the ECHL and back to the AHL. If the Blues could get anything for Della Rovere I think they would be glad to take it.
Mark Cundari has played 173 games in the AHL and has looked pretty good. The left-handed defenseman has posted 70 points and has a wicked slap shot. If a team is looking to rebuild and wants to add a younger defenseman who could be NHL ready next season, Cundari could be a guy to look at. Armstrong would be willing to move him but would want a decent pick in return.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Feb 20 2013; Denver, CO, USA; St. Louis Blues center Andy McDonald (10) passes the puck during the first period of the game against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Andy McDonald has a big contract that comes to an end after this season. While Andy Mac has managed to be one of the most exciting Blues players to watch in recent years, he is often out with injuries and might not be in the Blues’ future plans. Unless McDonald is willing to take a major pay cut next season, the Blues will look to move on from this relationship, but don’t expect Armstrong to let him walk with nothing in return. I would think Armstrong is working the phones to see what the return would be for the aging veteran.
Wade Redden was brought in to help Alex Pietrangelo develop, but he has struggled through his time in St. Louis. While the organization clearly sees him for what he is worth, there are quite a few teams around the league that wanted to sign him when the Blues won the lottery. There were reports that St. Louis had one of the lowest offers but made a good pitch to get him in the note. If Blues brass could send him off and get someone of value of a decent pick, I would think they would make that move. With Cole, Russell, and Redden fighting for ice time, the Blues have enough depth to move one of the three. I wouldn’t be surprised if Armstrong was asking what Redden is worth to other teams.
Scott Nichol is great on the face off dot and plays with a lot of grit, but he doesn’t seem to fit into the Blues’ plans past this season. If a team that is looking to add some depth up front for a playoff run is interested, Armstrong might be able to get a good young player in the deal. The Blues might be willing to move him, but the price would have to be right.
Jeff Woywitka was brought in to give the Blues some depth on the backend, but after the addition of Redden there is not a place for him on the team. Woywitka has NHL experience and could be a great depth addition for a lot of teams in the league. Look for Armstrong to see if anyone wants to pick up the experienced D-Man.
Mar 3, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; St. Louis Blues center Andrew Murray (23) warms up before the game against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeated the Blues 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Murray didn’t fit in well with this Blues team and he passed through waivers without a problem. It doesn’t look like the Blues would be able to move him, but they would surely jump at the chance to get something in return. If a team calls Armstrong is sure to answer.
Adam Cracknell played pretty well while he was in the NHL, but with regular roster players coming back from injury there was just no room for him on the team. Armstrong knows that Cracknell is outgrowing the AHL and could be used to bring in a decent pick. The Blues need to start cycling out some of the older guys in Peoria and Cracknell may be the first to go.
Mike McKenna was brought in this season and as a St. Louis Native a lot of people were happy for him. The problem is that McKenna is a backup at best in the AHL. The Blues goaltending situation needs to be addressed and with Jordan Binnington likely joining the Rivermen next season, there does not seem to be room for McKenna on the roster. The Blues could possibly trade McKenna for a low draft pick, but they are currently using him quite a bit. I wouldn’t expect the Blues to move McKenna unless they can move Brian Elliott for another goalie (maybe from Tampa Bay).
Players Who May Have Fallen Out of Favor/Don’t Fit Into Roster Past 2013
David Perron has quickly fallen out of favor with the St. Louis Blues fans and they are crying for him to be moved. While Perron has a ton of skill on a low cost, long-term contract, the St. Louis Blues could probably get a decent return for the left winger. Perron has a ton of skill, but I think that the coaching staff and management of the St. Louis Blues know what they have in Perron and won’t look to move him. Armstrong knows a shortened season is not the year to judge any player on and gave Perron a big contract with a lot of confidence of him last summer. I think he is here to stay, but with the right return he could be out the door.
Ryan Reaves is a great big body on the ice and his hockey sense isn’t bad either. Reaves has the ability to move the puck and even score if he is given the chance, but the Blues have been forced to sit him more often with the increasing play of Chris Porter. If the Blues want to keep Porter, who is also a restricted free agent, on this roster for the next few years, Reaves may find himself as the odd man out. Any team looking for grit and skill on their fourth line would love to have a guy like Reaves so keep an eye on him to possibly be shopped around.
Mar 5, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) with help from defenseman Ian Cole (28) make a save off a shot by Los Angeles Kings right wing Justin Williams (14) in the third period at the Staples Center. Kings won 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Elliott has fallen back to earth and remembered that he is in fact, well, Brian Elliott. Last season showed that he has a ton of skill, but that he can’t handle the spotlight. It looks like Elliott can still play a high level game, but it won’t be in St. Louis. The coaching staff and fan base have lost their faith in Ells and he should be on his way. If the Blues can find a team willing to send a young goalie for the AHL in return, Armstrong should take that deal.
Prospects that may never wear the note
While Blues fans think of all the great NHL ’13 trade ideas that they can think of, there are a few prospects that they are ready to send out the door. Although the organization seems to believe in their top end prospects and would like to grow them from within, the Blues could use a big name player and to get one will take a prospect.
Ty Rattie has been incredibly impressive playing in the WHL. I would love to see what he can do in Peoria and would love to see him wear the Blue Note, but he could be a piece in a big trade. If Armstrong was willing to move him in a package it could yield very high results. Rattie has a true scoring touch and has put up a truly incredible 347 points in only 259 games while playing with the Portland Winterhawks. If he can have half of that production in the AHL, he is sure to see time in the NHL very soon, but whether he can compete with the bigger bodies has yet to be proven. If Rattie is going to be moved, a good return better be coming the Blues way that will benefit the team for years to come.
Dmitrij Jaskin finally made the jump to North American from the Czech leagues, but his 99 points in 51 games with the Moncton Wildcats this season has shown that he is the real deal. While many are excited about Jaskin joining the Rivermen in the very near future, he could also be a great piece to include in a package. I hope that Armstrong has patience and holds onto Jaskin, but don’t be surprised if he is moved as part of a bigger deal.
So while we no one knows exactly who the St. Louis Blues may look to move, the above list of players gives a good idea of who may be on their way out of the organization. Let us know if the comments below what kinds of trades you would like to see and if there are any other players you want to see moved.
LET’S GO BLUES!