Blues may be willing to make a deal

News-DemocratJune 29, 2013 

With trade rumors at raging bonfire level around the NHL during draft weekend, the St. Louis Blues could be among those with a few logs on the fire.

The Blues have vast depth in goal and on defense if they choose to make a move to add a scoring or a playmaking center. Other teams may covet one of the Blues' talented young forwards, too.

The Blues traded their 2013 first-round pick to Calgary in the trade for veteran defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, so they will be sitting out the first round Sunday in New Jersey unless they trade back up into the mix.

"We could walk out of (the draft) with 10 first-round picks if we want, quite easily," Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said. "But that's not where we're at. I'm not saying that it's not possible for us to trade a player for a first-round pick, but I'm not sure we have an excess at any one position to give away a player for a first-round pick."

Teams looking to add talent have another resource this year, since some teams are buying out the contracts on high-priced veterans, turning them into unrestricted free agents July 5.

Each team is capable of exercising up to two compliance buyouts for players under the new collective bargaining agreement.

Tampa Bay center and former 50-goal scorer Vincent Lecavalier, 33, falls into that category. So does Flyers winger Danny Briere and others.

Last season, the Blues picked up defenseman Wade Redden after his contract was bought out by the New York Rangers.

Do the Blues have interest in a veteran forward like Briere?

"We're going to wait and let the pool fill up, then look at all the possible ways to build our team," Armstrong said.

The Blues biggest question mark heading into the weekend may be their goaltending situation.

Veterans Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott have enjoyed plenty of hot and cold runs the past two seasons, while Halak played in only 16 of 48 games last season because of injuries.

He was 6-5-1 in 16 games with a 2.14 goals-against average. In three seasons Halak has tied Hall of Famer Glenn Hall's franchise record of 16 shutouts, but also has battled injuries in each of the last two seasons.

He's headed into the final year of his current contract ($3.75 million cap hit) and is just three years removed from backstopping the Montreal Canadiens to the Eastern Conference finals.

Armstrong acquired Halak for former first-round pick Lars Eller and prospect Ian Schultz. The Flyers, who bought out Bryzgalov and have Steve Mason under contract, could be in the market for a goalie like Halak.

Minnesota is another team that could be seeking goaltending help.

Elliott reeled off 11 of his 14 wins during a red-hot April last spring, setting a franchise record with a 201 minute, 19 second shutout streak on the road April 7-21. He will be paid $1.8 million in the final year of his contract.

Rookie Jake Allen stepped up big when Halak was injured and Elliott was struggling, leading all rookie goalies with nine wins and a 2.46 goals-against average. Allen had a five-game win streak in March and his nine wins were the most by a Blues rookie goalie since Curtis Joseph in 1989-90.

Restricted free agent defenseman Alex Pietrangelo still has to be signed, but the Blues locked up defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk with a four-year, $17 million deal earlier this week.

The Blues also signed free-agent center Patrik Berglund to a one-year extension worth $3.5 million.

They still must make a decision on veteran defenseman and unrestricted free agent Jordan Leopold, as well as restricted free agent defenseman Kris Russell.

The team signed former first-round pick Ian Cole earlier this year, so the defense depth is there if a trade proposal hits Armstrong the right way.

"We've got more pieces in place, so each contract does define what we're going to be next year and the economics that we have to spend in different areas," said Armstrong, whose team is more than $16 million under the 2013-14 salary cap of $64.3 million according to NHL salary database capgeek.com.

Armstrong seems happy with the Blues' overall defense unit.

"Our defense is going to be stable -- and it's going to be stable for many years moving forward now," he said.

Armstrong said Shattenkirk compares favorably to puck-moving defenseman Brian Rafalski, the former New Jersey and Detroit star.

Armstrong said Rafalski was an "American-born player that's won championships and plays the game with his head and defends the game with his stick. That's a player that Shatty can evolve his game to and he's going to need to be in top physical shape to play those minutes."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or on Twitter @NormSanders

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