If you've been on any of the message boards or NHL rumor sites or other Blues sites then you've seen the rumors: The Blues are looking for an offensive upgrade (some say scorer, I say playmaker). In exchange, they are willing to give up Patrik Berglund, Chris Stewart and Ben Bishop.
Here's why that won't happen.
Under the current ownership group and the reign of John Davidson as president, the Blues have made only a few trades that were not of the Sellers-At-The-Deadline variety. Among them:
- Trading Doug Weight to Anaheim for Andy McDonald (2007)
- Acquiring Carlo Colaiacovo and Alexander Steen from Toronto for Lee Stempniak (2008)
- Acquiring Jaroslav Halak from Montreal for Lars Eller and Ian Schultz (2010)
- Acquiring Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk along with a 2nd rd pick from Colorado for Jay McClement, Erik Johnson and a 1st rd pick (2011)
The common element of every one of these trades is that the Blues traded away assets of value. Better said, they traded away assets that were at their highest value. The rule to playing the stock market, and the NHL Trading Game, is to buy low and sell high. When a stock (player) is at his highest value, sell (trade) it. When the value goes down, the other guy is stuck with it. Likewise, buy (acquire) a stock (player) when the other guy has given up on it. When the value (player) explodes, so does your gain.
At the time that the Blues got Andy McDonald from Anaheim, he had 10 points in 44 games. Doug Weight, while not any better offensively, was seen as a veteran who could contribute in the locker room and on the power play. Weight went on to contribute some points for Anaheim, play a few playoff games and bolt for the Islanders in free agency. McDonald, of course, became a top-six offensive player for the Blues who is very dangerous, if injury prone of late.
The Maple Leafs coveted Stempniak's scoring touch. In St. Louis he had threatened to become a 30-goal guy and showed flashes of breaking out again in 2008. In exchange, the Blues took Colaiacovo and Steen off Toronto's hands, two players who management and fans had grown tired of cheering on. Both former first round picks, Colaiacovo was injury prone and Steen was becoming a bottom-six player. Obviously, the Blues sold high and bought low on this trade as Stempniak bottomed out in Toronto (25 goals in 123 games) while Colaiacovo and Steen turned into solid, core players for St. Louis.
Halak was acquired at a high value, an anomaly for this Blues Braintrust, but they also knew that the Canadiens were in a bad spot because they had to trade either Halak or Carey Price. Keeping both made no sense and any offer they would get from NHL teams would reflect that. The Blues wisely traded Lars Eller to the Canadiens, moving a good young former first round player with lots of upside. Eller has played a lot of games for Montreal and has been solid, if unspectacular (minus his four-goal game this year). He'll undoubtedly be a good NHLer. Halak, on the other hand, is the Blues starter and (with Brian Elliott to push him) could become a franchise cornerstone. If this trade was offered today, Halak's value would be too high and Eller's would be too low to make it go.
Is there a better example of selling high than trading Erik Johnson away last February? Revisionist historians be damned, when that trade was announced, the reaction was fast and it was furious (they should make a movie named that). Johnson was the team's franchise blueliner - a player who could play in all three zones effectively and take over games. Chris Stewart seemed to only score against the Blues and who had ever heard of a Shattenkirk? One year removed, no one on the St. Louis side of the trade is calling for a do-over. Alex Pietrangelo, whose play made Eeej available, has become the franchise defender who is excellent in all three zones. Shattenkirk has become his 1A. Stewart, who exploded last year, has frustrated this season, but is still more valuable than fan favorite (of some) Jay McClement, whose role was capably absorbed by Vladimir Sobotka.
All are examples of selling high and buying low, even the Halak move, whose value was decreased by his team's non-secret that they had to move him. The Blues do not make knee-jerk trades and they do not sell low and they do not buy high.
Why then, would they trade away Berglund or Stewart? Bishop, similarly, will not be simply given away.
- Patrik Berglund has NHL point totals of 47, 26, 52 and is now on pace for 31 points in 2012. If the Blues offered him to you, would you give them fair value for him?
- Chris Stewart has NHL goal scoring totals of 11 (in 53 games), 28, 28 and is on pace for 16 in 2012. If the Blues offered him to you in a trade, would you want him as a potential 40-goal scorer or would you say, "So, he's an overpaid third liner. What else will you add?"
- Ben Bishop has shown an ability to dominate in the AHL. In the NHL, he is 4-5-1 with a 2.83 GAA and a 89.1% save percentage. How much value would you say he's worth if the Blues offered him to you?
The Blues, I think, would love to add a playmaker. If they call a team looking to get one, it's going to have to be a guy who is currently underperforming compared to his salary. Only then will they be able to interest them in their own underperforming, overpaid guys like Berglund and Stewart. And that may not get it done, either. Bishop becomes a throw-in at that point and his trade simultaneously hurts your AHL affiliate's playoff chances (and you do want your AHL youngsters getting playoff experience).
If the Blues go after a rental player like Ray Whitney or Ales Hemsky (please, no), those teams will be happy to acquire a Stewart or Berglund. Trading away those guys at low-end value for a rental player? Those are the kinds of trades that come back to bite you. The Blues are not a Stanley Cup shoo-in who need a rental guy to push them over the top. The Blues are a playoff team with long run potential: acquiring a core player who can stick around for a couple years is more what they need. Guys like Paul Stastny, Ryan Getzlaf or maybe even Derek Roy could possibly jump-start their seasons here and help propel the Blues. Those guys will not be acquired for underperforming one-time first-rounders and a potential UFA AHL goalie.
Unless, of course, Doug Armstrong has perfected the jedi mind trick even better than we thought. In which case, come get your underperformers! Step right up and keep the line civil, people!
I hope a good trade happens. I hope it includes one of the three guys mentioned above. I doubt it happens in exchange for guys who currently are on the verge of being healthy scratches.