St. Louis Blues: Injuries Prompt Trade Speculation


With the potentially serious injury to Jori Lehtera looming, the St. Louis Blues have found themselves running extremely thin at forward. The Blues have made diamonds out of coal thus far this year, as we wrote about last week.

However, if the Blues do not make a move, they will find themselves relying on Robby Fabbri, who has not yet played at Center in the NHL, to anchor the third line of a team struggling to stay near the top of the central division.

The Blues have been linked to multiple trade suitors already this year. Most notably, the Blues made Carl Gunnarsson available to teams seeking defensive help, according to Darren Dreger on TSN 1050. Currently, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins are teams seeking defensemen.

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In Toronto, Babcock’s Leafs are looking to restock their prospect pipeline and have dangled Tyler Bozak as a trade piece over the summer. Though Bozak’s career numbers may be inflated from playing with Phil Kessel, Bozak would be available with a pick and Gunnarsson. This move may be the least risky for the Blues.

The Flyers are looking to move Sam Gagner, who would be a suitable replacement for Lehtera, though his finesse-based play may clash with Ken Hitchcock’s physical coaching style. Though Gagner carries a similar cap hit to Gunnarsson’s, both players’ ‘rental’ status makes this a trade which would depend on money and prospects changing hands. This is a trade the Blues may avoid, considering their upcoming contract negotiations with David Backes and Jaden Schwartz. Besides, Sam Gagner’s career plus/minus? -103. Yuck.

Pittsburgh is in a tough position, loaded with talent but as of yet unable to get it together. Last night, Olli Matta left their game with the Wild with an ugly-looking upper-body injury. The Penguins may be as desperate for defense as the Blues are for offense. If the Blues are going to make a trade with Pittsburgh, the Note may ask for Beau Bennett in return for Gunnarsson, and Bennett could comfortably handle the role as a third line winger in Hitchcock’s system.

Next: Injuries Mount For Blues

This is all well and good, but what if the rumor from last year is true, and Kevin Shattenkirk is available? A trade of such a talented, young player would yield a strong return, but brings far more risk than swapping a lesser talent like Gunnarsson.

The Avalanche, caught in the midst of a second disappointing season in a row under Patrick Roy, were reportedly listening to offers on Matt Duchene. While Ottawa was apparently the most active participant in trade talks, could a return of Kevin Shattenkirk entice the Avalanche to move a potential #1 center to a division rival? It seems like an unlikely proposition, but unlike last year, the Blues have Colton Parakyo to fill the void left by Shattenkirk’s departure.

Other teams like the Sharks and Hurricanes have older centers that are allegedly available to the right suitor. The prospect of Eric Staal or Jumbo Joe Thornton wearing the Note could be enough to bring the front office to consider floating an elite young defenseman like Shattenkirk, whom a rebuilding team like San Jose or Carolina could build around.

However, any trade for a forward will lead to an even bigger logjam once St. Louis’ injured players begin to return. Once Berglund and Schwartz return, the Blues will have no less than seven available left wingers: Steen, Schwartz, Fabbri, Berglund, Upshall, Ott and Paajarvi. One or more of these players will be wearing different sweaters if the Blues are finally healthy come February.

Blues fans are wary of the big trade, especially given the club’s spotty history with mega-deals (see: Ryan Miller, Wayne Gretzky, etc…). However, with the Central division as insane as it currently is, another serious injury to an impact player could provide a deathblow to the Blues’ chances at making the playoffs, let alone getting past the first round.

This time, the big trade might be unavoidable.