With the trade deadline just a mere five days away, one looming question hangs over the entire St. Louis Blues fan-base: will General Manager Doug Armstrong make a trade that significantly and immediately changes the current roster?
While a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins are making trades to acquire all-star caliber talent for this year’s playoff run, a la Jarome Iginla, the Blues have sat idle in making any improvements to their current roster.
It’s important to note that the Penguins were able to make the Iginla trade because of their deep prospect pool. They believe they can afford to give away potential for an immediate result in hopes of winning the cup this year.
So what asset(s) do the Blues have that would allow them to make a trade in order to fill that hole on defense that’s preventing them from returning to their 2011-12 form?
Elliott has shown that he can be an above-average goaltender when put in to the right system. A system where he isn’t the premier starter but instead comes off the bench more often than the average backup.
But the emergence of Jake Allen as a serviceable backup has made Brian Elliot and his 1.8 million cap hit expendable and most importantly, easy to move in a league that constantly seeks veteran goaltending help.
Jaroslav Halak looks to be the guy that the Blues brass is looking at to be their team’s workhorse goaltender in the post season. He carried the Montreal Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2009-10 playoffs and can bring the Blues deep into the playoffs if he can play the same way he did then.
If they make the playoffs, that is. The Blues currently sit at the 8th seed in the Western Conference. An immediate improvement or lack thereof could be a make or break decision for the Blues this year.
Now let’s be honest here. Wade Redden just isn’t cutting it. The Blues should be looking to add a top 4 pairing, left handed defensemen before the trade deadline passes.
Which teams would be a perfect fit for the Blues to be trade partners with?
While I pick out three possible Eastern Conference destinations for Elliott, Jeff Ponder examines possible Western Conference destinations for him.
The Eastern Conference
1. Carolina Hurricanes
Currently sitting as the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference, the Hurricanes are the ideal team for the Blues to make a trade with. Their all-star caliber goaltender in Cam Ward is done for the season.
Their current starting goalie, Dan Ellis, has had consistency problems in the past and is currently showing Hurricanes fans why he can’t be their starting goaltender. And heck, even he’s injured right for the ’Canes right now.
Justin Peters can’t carry the load by himself for this Hurricanes team. If Ellis either: 1. Stinks it up so bad down the stretch that the Hurricanes fall out of contention or 2. He gets seriously injured and Peters has to be relied on as the starter, then the Hurricanes can all but kiss their playoff hopes goodbye.
But good news Hurricanes fans, because the Blues just so happen to be willing to trade away a goaltender with five years of NHL experience and two years of playoff experience. He also comes really cheap at 1.8 million a year for this year and next. Ellis comes off the books after this season; Ward/Elliott has a real nice ring to it for 2013-14.
The most noticeable issue right now is that the Hurricanes have been giving up goals in bunches. If they want to make it to the playoffs, they need to get a goalie. Giving up 40 goals in 13 games this month won’t cut it for the playoff stretch or the playoffs themselves.
If the Hurricanes are truly trying to make the playoffs this season, they need to make this trade.
Who the Blues should target:
- Joni Pitkanen: has a cannon of a shot and can hold his own in the offensive zone. He gives up .593 goals per 20 minutes which is 3rd on the Hurricanes.
Here’s a taste of his defense:
And his offense:
Note: This is my ideal pickup and where I believe Elliott will go if traded.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs
General Manager Dave Nonis has been rumored to several inquiries this season in search of a veteran goaltender: most notably and recently, Roberto Luongo…again. It has been nine years since the Maple Leafs last made the playoffs and their fan base will be looking for the team to make some noise now and not another nine years from now. But if they expect to do that, they’ll need to add some help on the back end because it all starts with thegoaltender.
Their current starting goalie, James Reimer, has produced solid numbers this year and should be the Leafs starter for the playoffs. But acquiring Brian Elliott could provide a strong veteran backup presence and potentially guide the young net minder Reimer by mentally preparing him for the playoffs.
The Leafs defensive ratings are poor and they sit in the bottom 10 in the league in goals against. Neither of their goalies on their roster has had any type of playoff experience. Aside from Winnipeg, every other team that’s currently sitting in a playoff spot has a veteran goaltender with some playoff experience. The Leafs need to join the club or the next thing they know, they’ll be sitting in the golf club house waiting to tee off.
Who the Blues should target:
- Mark Fraser: for every 20 minutes Fraser is on the ice, the Leafs score 1.425 goals. That’s tops on the team.
- John-Michael Liles: the Blues will probably have to include more than just Elliott if they want Liles, because he’s statistically been one of the Leafs top defensemen.
3. Winnipeg Jets
Since I believe they will win their division, the Winnipeg Jets will be the 3rd possible destination for Elliott. Their starting goaltender Ondrej Pavelec is a very athletic goalie with a filthy glove hand.
But much like the Maple Leafs goaltenders, Pavelec lacks NHL playoff experience. The Jets backup, Al Montoya, is not going to steal them any playoff games with a .899 save percentage in case he needs to make an appearance or two, so getting a veteran backup with some playoff experience could just be the last piece to the puzzle for a newly relocated Jets team that is definitely trying to impress their fans in the playoffs for the first time in 17 years.
Aside from a disastrous home stand against the Capitals last week, the Jets have been red-hot lately. A veteran presence in the locker room whose ‘been there before’ could be exactly what this Jets team needs to push them over the line of mediocrity and into the realm of greatness. They have that potential.
Who the Blues should target:
- Mark Stuart: the only defensemen on the Jets with a positive defensive rating and leads all defensemen on the team in goals against per 20 minutes. Although currently, injured, Stuart is a rugged stay at home defensemen and a former first round pick. The Jets may be wary of giving up their best defensive defensemen, so it would probably take more than just Elliott to acquire Stuart.
Honorable Mention: New York Islanders.