On Nov. 23 last year the Blues were 8-8-2 and 13th in the Western Conference, dead-last in the Central Division. They'd suffered some odd injuries, including an emergency appendectomy to one of their players. Fans were grumbling about the coaching of Andy Murray and the lack of team scoring (just 55 goals in 18 games to that point).
The next day the team traded Lee Stempniak, considered by most followers of the team to be one of the franchise's youthful building blocks, to Toronto for Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo. The deal was a classic sell-high, buy-low for the Blues, as Stempniak had a bit of a point streak going at the time (he had three goals and 10 assists in 14 games to that point) and had been a 27-goal scorer once before in his short career. Meanwhile, both Colaiacovo and Steen had long since worn out their welcome in the Center Of The Hockey Universe as underperforming former first round picks.
But the trade was more than a "let's get two-for-one" deal for the Blues; this was a direct message to the players that Murray would be staying and if their performance continued to be mediocre, it was they that would be a-going.
The team continued to struggle along through November and December before going 6-4-1 in January and then, of course, going on The Run that ended with the Blues in the sixth seed in the West.
With the exception of waiving Manny Legace on Feb. 6, the Blues made no other roster moves after the Stempniak deal. Considering the similar state of the team today and the recent comments made by team owner David Checketts that the time to move forward is now, if the team doesn't start to climb the standings soon, another move will be made to shake up the roster. For the sake of this argument, we're going to assume that Andy Murray will not be fired and that the team will deal with first quarter doldrums in the same manner that they did last year and trade someone.
But who fits the bill to be traded this year? Last year's trade of Stempniak was unforeseen and shocking to fans, media and presumably, the players. If a trade is to be made this year, it'd likely be designed to shake up the players who remain behind. The problem is identifying a player who is shocking to see leave and sends the message, but not be the type of player that goes on to make you regret his departure.
Similarly, the roster is full of players that fans might want to see traded, but simply cannot be moved for one reason or another.
We'll analyze the current roster to see who is tradeable and who is not, leaving the minor leaguers and prospects out of the discussion as we're not talking about specific packages or team needs at this point. In the end, we'll give our most likely candidates to be moved if the Blues decide to dangle one of their players.
2009 - David Backes
David Backes, RW: The Blues thought highly enough of Backes to match Vancouver's RFA offer to him before last season, agreeing to overpay him to the tune of $2.5 million a year. Backes paid back the Blues in spades last year with his 31-goal effort and his nightly physical domination. He became known as Chuck Norris around these parts and it was justly deserved.
But is he tradeable today? Backes' slow start made him an early candidate for consideration in a shake up trade, but his six points in his last four games has made him an even more potent trading piece. If the Blues were to trade Backes it would definitely shake up the roster and send the message that no one here is untouchable, but giving up on the 25-year-old could end up being seriously short-sighted. The return might be great, but what of the loss? Have we seen the top of Backes' game or is he just getting started?
2009 - Patrik Berglund
Patrik Berglund, C: The former first rounder from 2006 enjoyed a great rookie season, becoming coveted around the league for his 21 goals and 47 points in 76 games, despite playing in twice as many games as he ever had in a season previously. This season, however, has been the epitome of the sophomore slump for the young TechnoViking. He is on pace for just 11 goals and 18 points. His minus-4 stands out when compared to his solid plus-19 from last year.
Is he tradeable? Certainly. Would it be shocking? Absolutely. Would it be giving up on a talent who has not reached his final height yet? Probably. Depending on the return that could be gotten back, Berglund could find himself the target of a "needs a change of scenery" trade.
|2009 - Brad Boyes||6||9||15||-5||2|
Brad Boyes, C/RW: In his short NHL career, Boyes has bounced from Toronto to San Jose to Boston to St. Louis. His talent is evident as he has scored 43 and 33 goals over the last two seasons, but his streaky nature and perceived lack of hard work has kept him on the move. He is on pace for 29 goals this year, despite a recent streak of nine points in his last 10 games. At just 27 years old, he is still an NHL commodity and would surely find suitors if he were on the Blues' trade block.
But can the Blues trade a guy who one could argue is the only real sniper on the team? The last person to score 33 goals in the Bluenote was Tkachuk in 2003-04. The last to score 43 was Brett Hull in 1995-96. Yes, Brett Hull. In 1996. He'd likely draw some talent back to the team, but scoring, even if it is streaky, is not a strength from which the Blues have a deep well to deal.
|2009 - Eric Brewer||1||2||3||-8||11|
Eric Brewer, D: Calm down, boo-birds. Yes, Brewer might find himself atop many fans' Trade Now lists, but the Robot Captain seems to still be respected within the organization. His statistics continue to track along his career normal, in that area around 20-29 points, but his glaring minus-8 will keep the fans letting him know, "Brewer You Suck!"
If he hadn't missed a calendar year of hockey with various knee and back surgeries and if he wasn't currently on the shelf with another 'lower body' injury, Brewer might have some value. But add to those red flags his current contract of $4.5 million for this year and next and it's unlikely Brewer is going anywhere anytime soon.
|2009 - Carlo Colaiacovo||2||7||9||0||17|
Carlo Colaiacovo, D: The beneficiary of last year's "change of scenery" trade, Colaiacovo has revived his career in St. Louis. The offensive defenseman, who never put up more than 24 points in an NHL season before, finished last year with 30 and is on pace for even more points this season, his contract year. He remains haunted by the injury bug, though he managed to play a career-high 73 games last season.
If the Blues think he can be re-signed and continue to be productive in a leading role for the team (he is only 26 now), he won't be traded. If they think he'll be squeezed out by upcoming defenders, Colaiacovo could be a prime trading piece.
|2009 - Ty Conklin||7||386||3||2||15||2.33||204||189||.926||1|
Ty Conklin, G: Conklin has only been with the team for this season and played only seven games. he's been solid and (most importantly for a goalie) uncontroversial in the back-up goal. He fills a serious need for the team and he's paid appropraitely for this year and next.
There's no shock value to shake up the roster by trading Conklin and any trade involving him immediately opens a hole that has to be filled.
|2009 - B.J. Crombeen||1||3||4||2||63|
B.J. Crombeen, RW: The Beej has a very specific role on this team and depending on the night, he either plays it well by hitting and checking and making life a nightmare for the opposition, or he decides he's needed on the ice and puts himself on the ice for a too-many-men penalty. Basically, he's a role player who can chip in some points and allow older fans to boast that they remember when his dad played here.
Trading B.J. wouldn't be much of a blow to the team. Some might say that it sucks, but not too many fans or players would choke on the trade if it were made. There wouldn't be much of a return on a B.J. trade either because most people would see him as a starter, not the main event in any exchange.
|2009 - Barret Jackman||0||4||4||5||13|
Barret Jackman, D: The World's Angriest Defender (TM), owner of the best You're An Idiot (R) look in the NHL, Jackman is an original Blue, drafted in the first round back in 1999. He has had to re-learn the game as a defensive defenseman after the new rules were implemented after the lockout. Despite his inexplicable role as "the guy we hate when Brewer is out of the lineup", Jackman plays a steady if unspectacular game and while he has seen time on the power play during the less-offesnive days, he clearly doesn't relish the offensive role and is happier defending his own net.
Jackman's trade would definitely shake up the team and the fanbase, though the return would not be terribly flashy due to his unflashy role and large contract ($4.5 million this year and next, $3.5 million in 2011-12).
|2009 - Cam Janssen||0||0||0||-1||50|
Cam Janssen, RW: It's almost superfluous to put Janssen's position in this description as all it does is designate where he lines up on face-offs. The local boy gone pro, Cam Smash, King of Eureka, spends his entire shift running around the rink looking for someone to run into or to punch. St. Louisans love their home-town products and Janssen is no exception. He plays a specific role and with his better skating and durability than heavyweight fighter D.J. King, Janssen has been useful to the team. Also, did we mention that the fans love him?
While his game has gotten better since he arrived here in February 2008, Janssen could be traded. The return would be low and the biggest shake up it would cause would be down I-55 south of 44, where they still need every body they can get to fill sandbags come spring.
|2009 - Erik Johnson||4||14||18||6||16|
Erik Johnson, D: Despite missing all of last year to a golf cart jousting incident (allegedly), the Eeeej leads the team in scoring, changes the way teams have to prepare for the Blues' attack, does a mean Napoleon Dynamite impression, isn't afraid to get down with your girlfriend in your car in Al MacInnis' driveway (allegedly) and is likely going to stage some sweet raid on Oshie's condo at some point to get his Elmo hat back.
How do you spell 'franchise'? Not sure, but it definitely has an E and a J in it. This kid isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
|2009 - Paul Kariya||6||5||11||4||12|
Paul Kariya, LW: We owe Paul Kariya a bit of an apology. earlier this year we said something to the effect of, "The next time Paul Kariya takes a hit to make a play with be the first." Since that time, Kariya, who must have heard our admonishment through cyberspace, has been offering up his tiny, waif-like body to make plays. And, thankyouverymuch, it has resulted in Kariya's point totals rising, with points in each of the last three games.
Kariya is still on pace for a terrible offensive year, but that isn't the only reason that trading Kariya is a tough task. In fact there are 6 million reasons that other teams don't want to deal for Kariya. That hefty price tag, small offensive output and the final months of a contract owed to a notorious mercenary when it comes to free agency (just ask Anaheim, Colorado and Nashville) combine for a perfect storm of "hell no, we don't have interest in Kariya" among the rest of the NHL teams.
|2009 - Chris Mason||19||1129||7||8||43||2.29||557||514||.923||0|
Chris Mason, G: Mason is the goalie. He's not winning enough games because he's not getting enough help from the rest of the team. His personal stats are great (eighth in GAA and seventh in save percentage) and that's tough to do on a struggling team.
Trading Mason would happen if only one of two things were happening: 1. Tha Canucks called and said, "How about Luongo for that Mason fella straight up?" or 2. The Blues called a press conference and announced, "Screw this year, we love drafting high."
|2009 - Jay McClement||4||4||8||0||6|
Jay McClement, C: Silent Jay, one of the original members of the Blues' post-lockout Kid Line (along with the traded Stempniak), has developed into a legitimate Selke candidate right before our eyes. His even plus/minus is all the more impressive when considering that he sees most of his minutes against other team's top lines. McClement is also locked up for two years after this season to a reasonable contract ($1.45 million per). Plus, his stock photo looks like he has a skelton's grin, which is awesome.
McClement's trade would shock the locker room more than the fans, especially casual fans who too often overlook his quiet, workmanlike contributions to team success. His contract, work ethic and skill set make him a perfect add for an opposing team. His trade wouldn't bring back the intangibles he adds. It could happen, but it would likely be shortsighted.
|2009 - Andy McDonald||6||8||14||-2||2|
Andy McDonald, C: McDonald is struggling offensively this year but everyone has seen what he can do with the puck when he starts running hot. Plus, the Blues just locked him up for another three years after this year at an average of $4.7 million a year.
Trading McDonald would be the Blues saying that they made a mistake with a big contract and are having buyers' remorse. Which would put them on the 'sell low' end of the negotiations, the bad end to be on. The trade wouldn't shock fans or the locker room and the return would be less than impressive.
|2009 - T.J. Oshie||4||9||13||1||10|
T.J. Oshie, C/W: Oshie only seems like he's in a the throes of a sophomore slump because his rookie season took the city by storm. Young Mister Furnace Face scored the NHL.com goal of the year, blew up Rick Nash so badly (twice) that the fans coined the phrase "Oshied", got voted by someone to be his or her mayor in an actual election and had his name chanted by over 19,000 people on multiple occasions last year. By comparison, a second season where he only tallies 50 points would seem like a let down.
Last year, even suggesting that Oshie be traded would be reason enough to go into Salman Rushdie-like hiding for a writer. This year, it would be like suggesting that Anheuser-Busch is better off being owned by a foreign company like Inbev. It's still fighting words in most places, but in others, well, whatever, they just drink Schlafly anyway. Which isn't to say that Oshie's trade wouldn't shock the team and the fans, beacause it certainly would. The problem is that Oshie can score, but his intangibles are worth at least as much as his points, so the return on him wouldn't match what the team would give up.
|2009 - David Perron||9||7||16||-1||14|
David Perron, LW: Perron leads the team in goals, works his poutine-loving ass off on every shift (doing a great rookie Oshie impression) and has an early nod for selection for this year's NHL.com goal of the year. Despite what has happened between Perron and the coach in the past, he is newly mature and coming into his own. And he's only 21.
Despite the fact that he's coming into a contract year and will certainly be looking for a huge pay increase this summer, the day a competing general manager picks up his phone to learn that the Blues are calling to offer Perron in a trade is that GM's best day ever. David Perron is untradeable at this point, no matter the return (sort of insanity, which can happen in the NHL) because of his ceiling.
|2009 - Alex Pietrangelo||1||1||2||-9||6|
Alex Pietrangelo, D: There's a rule in hockey that goes something like this: goalies hit their stride and their prime later than any other position. Defensemen hit their stride and their prime earlier than goalies, but still not until later in their careers. Forwards can be thrown into the league earliest at all because creativity, speed and their shot can compensate for other factors.
Pietrangelo isn't playing enough in the NHL for most observers and he's got nothing left to learn in junior, but that hardly makes him prime trade bait. The fourth overall selection from just last year going on the trade block would garner a ton of calls from around the league, but the fact is that the offers would almost always be "you take our busting project for your young defenseman who isn't playing anyway".
|2009 - Roman Polak||2||4||6||6||22|
Roman Polak, D: He's 23, he's locked up for this year and next for a little over a million bucks each, plays solid defense, can contribute offensively and is fast enough to rush the puck and get back to protect his own zone. He's quiet and unheralded and he's the Jay McClement of the defense. Plus, his fake Twitter account is awesome. As is farting in teammate's helmets.
The shock value is high, his replacement is fairly easy considering the Pietrangelo, Junland, Rundblad, Cole pipeline and the return on him would likely be comparable, if not exactly earth-shattering.
|2009 - Alexander Steen||1||1||2||-1||6|
Alexander Steen, LW: Steen has been a staple on the McClement line almost since his arrival in St. Louis and he has also shown flashes of the offense that caused him to be drafted in the first round by Toronto back in 2002. But unlike his trade-mate Colaiacovo, Steen hasn't exactly made himself a more desired commodity around the NHL. he plays an important role for the team, but his role can be filled by plenty of similar players in Peoria who would love the opportunity.
No one nose what value Steen might have around the NHL, but we smell a boring trade if he's the tip of any deal because he's at the end of his contract and has likely reached his beak.
|2009 - Darryl Sydor||0||4||4||6||10|
Darryl Sydor, D: Sydor's best days are well behind him. He's lucky that he happens to have a skill set that allows him to be paid premium dollars (a cool million for this season) to act as 'mentor' and not really be expected produce much offensively. Sydor's only value in trade would be at the deadline as a depth/veteran presence guy. As for shock value in trading Sydor at this point, it's unlikely there would be much shake up in the locker room after the initial "I couldn't believe he took Pronger's number in the first place" discussion.
2009 - Keith Tkachuk
Keith Tkachuk, LW/C: The days of trading Tkachuk for a big return are probably long gone. If the trade deadline were looming, there might be a
sucker general manager or two out there who might still fall for the siren song of "big body, proven goal scorer, veteran presence" for their playoff run, but as for a trade today, there won't be many takers around the NHL.
Tkachuk is on a short, NHL-cheap contract and does have a strong locker room presence... which is exactly why the Blues want him and will be unlikely to trade him. It'd shake up the roster, but the return at this point wouldn't be worth the exchange.
|2009 - Mike Weaver||0||1||1||5||8|
Mike Weaver, D: Small but steady, Weaver doesn't get mentioned much because he is a defensive defenseman who does his job effectively. Not being mentioned much is a compliment for defensive defenseman.
As for trade value, Weaver has virtually none. There'd be little shock value to the team due to his journeyman status and zero shock value to the fans (have you ever seen a Weaver 43 jersey worn by a fan?) and the return would be the definition of infinitesimal.
|2009 - Brad Winchester||0||2||2||1||24|
Brad Winchester, LW: It's hard to believe that a guy who stands 6'5 tall and weighs nearly 230 pounds could ever be described as invisible, but Winchester has done just that and in the process has proven how a guy who is taken 35th overall in the NHL draft (2000) can muster only 200 NHL games and 36 points in the following nine years.
Yeah, this is about trade value and shake up of the roster, neither of which describe Winchester.
So where does that leave the Blues if they are looking to make a trade? Here are our best guesses, by category.
Untradeable Due To Value:
These guys aren't going anywhere because they are too important to the team now and/or in the future.
- Erik Johnson. If the trade documents came to the NHL offices, even those numbskulls would void it based on sheer stupidity. Wayne Gretzky got traded, sure, but not when he was 21 and the best player on his team.
- Chris Mason. What do you need the second you trade Chris Mason? A top-10 ranked starting netminder. Whoops!
- Jay McClement. Much like Mason, if you trade McClement, you suddenly need a guy just like McClement.
- T.J. Oshie. Oshie's intangibles outweigh anything the team would get for him unless some other GM was eating peyote and then firing up the Blackberry to offer up some ridiculous package for the kid. The P.R. hit alone would making trading the Teej a huge mistake.
- David Perron. The kid will be worth three first round draft picks to some RFA-contract-offering idiot this summer, so if the Blues are willing to lose an emerging talent like Frenchie, they should wait until then to do it.
Untradeable Due To Lack Of Value:
These guys aren't going anywhere because the return is too small.
- Eric Brewer. The Robot is too broken and expensive to warrant interest from another team.
- Paul Kariya. It isn't 1996 anymore. Kariya costs too much, is too close to unrestricted free agency and is producing far too few points to be of any interest to any but the drunkest of general managers.
- Andy McDonald. We have no doubt that McDonald will be valuable again one day, but right now he too closely resembles the guy who was easily required for a virtually worthless Doug Weight two seasons ago.
Untradeable Due To Role:
Unless these guys are a problem in the locker room, and there's no reason to think they are, no possible advantage can be gained from trading them.
- Ty Conklin. This guy gets traded and has to immediately be replaced by a guy who plays like him, gets paid like him and has the same demeanor as him.
- Cam Janssen. Add in the hometown bump you get for having this guy in the lineup, the team would have to get something special to let go of the P.R. advantage Janssen brings. No GM in the league is about to overpay for Janssen.
Could Be Traded For Low Impact:
These guys could get traded, but the return will be small and the shock to the team won't likely be enough to cause significant change.
- B.J. Crombeen. Swapping a role player for a mid-to-late pick or another role player isn't going to have the impact the team is looking to get. Plus, why ruin a whole season of blow job jokes if you don't have to?
- Alex Steen. The worst thing that can happen to a player is to get injured and then have someone step into your role and make everyone forget you were gone. Steen has played 11 games this year. Seems high, doesn't it?
- Darryl Sydor. "Oh no! They traded a 37-year-old depth defenseman they brought in for one year and would have been gone in six months anyway! I guess they are serious; anyone can be traded!"
- Mike Weaver. Seriously, how many people really know Mike Weaver is on the team right now anyway? Impact of trading him: all of his immediate family have to update their mailing address for him. As if anyone mails anything anymore.
- Brad Winchester: "So we have an offer for 228 pounds worth of hockey pucks. We lose maybe one more fight but we do save about $200 in souvenir costs."
Are You Kidding Me? Seriously. Are You Kidding Me?:
You want shock value? You want some return on your exchange? These are the guys the management and staff are going to argue about trading and the guys who, if traded, would make you call your friends liars when they told you about the trade.
- David Backes. Sure, he's struggling. Sure he gets paid a lot for a guy his age. Sure it's been a long time since anyone here has vehemently compared him to Chuck Norris. But general managers in the NHL aren't as easily freaked out by slow starts as fans are. If Backes were made available, the list of teams with nice offers in hand would be long. Trading Backes shakes up the team, nets a good return and lets everyone know that no one is safe. The downside is that he almost certainly becomes a monster and regularly returns to haunt his former team.
- Brad Boyes. Most fantasy hockey guys will tell you that the second you trade a great player you immediatley make yourself believe he was never on your team. Boyes can be streaky and frustrating and may always leave you wanting more, but when he's on your team he's a guy that can change a game. Trading him likely brings a nice return, scares the other players into focus and makes all of us go fantasy GM and pretend he never played here, because he's got at least a couple more great scoring seasons ahead of him.
- Patrik Berglund. In five years we'll know what we had in Patrik Berglund. He's no Peter Forsberg, but is he going to become the shifty Swedish version of Pavel Datsyuk? Or is he on the fast track to becoming our next Jim Campbell? If he gets traded and blossoms into the slick playmaker with a nasty power play one-timer that we saw in glimpses next year, we'll be tasting our own vomit for the next 10-15 years. If he becomes the next great suburban Mite coach, we'll be applauding his trade like we used to talk about the Christer Olsson for Pavol Demitra deal.
- Alex Pietrangelo. Classic giving up too early trade. The kid is 19-years-old and if not for a bout of mono in his draft year could have been drafted before Drew Doughty and Zach Begosian. If he goes away the Blues are counting on Jonas Junland or David Rundblad, both high-risk, power play specialist type of players, to round out their game and fill his spot as they swap him for a slumping scorer of comparable value like Columbus' Nikita Filatov.
On The Block:
These are the guys whose age, reputation, contracts and shake up value to the current roster make them the most likely players to become 'former Blues' should the team decide to go that way.
- Carlo Colaiacovo. The guy is young and stepping into his game, but the crunch on the blueline, his contract status and injury history makes him a prime candidate to get dangled out there. His ceiling is probably ahead of him, but he's expendable from a P.R. standpoint, a talent standpoint and in terms of return.
- Barret Jackman. This would be even more shocking than the trade of Stempniak last year, but his contract and the depth of the Blues' defensive pipeline makes this a 'head' move more than a 'heart' move. The return would likely be good, too, as Jackman's reputation around the league is excellent.
- Roman Polak. How different is Roman Polak today from Dennis Wideman back when he was traded for Brad Boyes? When considering the current and future depth on the blueline, if the Blues could trade Polak today for another streaky sniper do you think they'd do it? Yeah, us too.
- Keith Tkachuk. He's the vet with the good story because his family lives here and everyone sees him around town, but he's been rumored to be in the middle of more than one split locker room in his time as a pro. Sending Tkachuk away shocks the Blues' system, forces a younger guy to step up and likely results in a decent return. Short of a no-trade clause we don't know about, it could happen.
Trade rumors are always a risky proposition and the saying goes that when a team is struggling it's easier to change out one guy (the coach) than a whole team, the Blues have proved in the past that they're willing to change out one player to shake up the others.
Will this year be any different?