As the St. Louis Blues head into trade deadline season in search of defensive help, Jake Walman is making things much easier for the team in March.
It’s time to beat an old drum, but the St. Louis Blues need to sure up their defensive core in order to be genuine Stanley Cup contenders come the summertime. Jake Walman’s play of late has made things more interesting for the club.
It took a lot of things to go wrong for other Blues players for Walman to find himself back in the starting lineup, albeit in the third pairing with Robert Bortuzzo. Scott Perunovich and Marco Scandella had to go down with injuries.
However, after Walman got inserted into the lineup, his play has forced Craig Berube to keep him there. His play will also make the job of general manager Doug Armstrong that much easier when looking to move pieces at the deadline.
He hasn’t put up the offensive numbers that his potential may indicate. He has seven points in 52 career NHL games. Although, like Robert Thomas, Walman’s value comes from his puck-moving ability and skating.
He plays a very different game than Scandella, but it’s one that seems to work with the Blues’ current style of hockey, especially when he finds himself on the ice with Thomas, Vladimir Tarasenko, or Jordan Kyrou.
Walman’s play opens up the possibility of trading Marco Scandella without losing too much quality in the bottom pairing. By the way, the 26-year-old defenseman is only making $725,000 while Scandella is making $3.275 for the next three years.
Being able to clear a big contract like Scandella’s would open up more trade possibilities for the Blues. As it stands, St. Louis only has around $22,000 in cap space, so any chance to clear significant money off the books in search of upgrades would be helpful.
There are questions surrounding the potential interest in Scandella. He has been on injured reserve since February 11 with a lower-body injury, and he hasn’t played in a game since February 11 against the Devils
Potential buyers would want to see Scandella in game action for at least a week, maybe two, before committing to a trade that would keep the 32-year old for three more seasons.
An issue that comes up if you trade Scandella for another defenseman like Ben Chiarot or Hampus Lindholm is depth. Without Perunovich back in the lineup, if something happens to one of your six defensemen, you’re looking at a callup from the AHL.
Now, most NHL teams would be facing a similar scenario if a defenseman gets injured. However, not Stanley Cup-winning teams. Those teams have a backup plan for a backup plan, and we saw that during the 2019 Blues’ Cup run.
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Still, an upgrade on defense will be vital to the Blues’ success in the summer, and Walman’s play as of late is making Armstrong’s job simpler. It could provide another layer of financial flexibility that St. Louis is desperate for.