The playoff picture is not looking too bright for the St. Louis Blues, as they currently find themselves on the outside looking in. One year removed from an Eastern Conference Semifinals appearance, the Blues are sinking quick. But this bodes well for potential trade speculation of big targets.
General Manager Doug Armstrong already gave the boot to Ken Hitchcock and goalie coach Jim Corsi less than a week ago. Armstrong didn’t hold back his feelings about moving pieces at the deadline either.
“If we’re stumbling along like this, then all bets are off. We don’t want to keep players here, hope to sneak into eighth place and get hammered in the first round,” said Armstrong.
One of those players who may be made available is defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. Shattenkirk is no stranger to trade speculation. It was known last season that the puck-moving blue-liner was not in the future plans for St. Louis and was expected to be traded at the 2016 NHL Draft.
Right-handed defensemen are difficult to find, and one of Shattenkirk’s caliber will cost a pretty penny. But, he’s been one of a select few bright spots for a struggling St. Louis team. He sits second in points on the team and first in power play points (18) among defensemen in the NHL.
This isn’t Shattenkirk’s first rodeo with being dealt. In 2011, he was traded to St. Louis from the Colorado Avalanche in a four-player deal.
Newly minted Blues head coach, Mike Yeo, had nothing but praise for Shattenkirk’s play throughout the season.
“He has been a huge player for us,” began Yeo. “I think everyone recognizes what he can bring on the power play and his offensive game as far as his instincts and his ability to execute and move the puck up the ice, to read plays in the offensive zone. He is really digging in defensively right now.”
Yeo has been around the game of hockey for quite some time. And, knows his team three weeks from now will look different without the former Boston University product manning the blue line. However, he commended the defenseman’s preparation and attitude during such an uncertain time.
When questioned about whether Shattenkirk can put aside the countless trade rumors and just play the game like he always does, Yeo said, “I don’t know that any player can’t not have that in the back of their mind, but what I give him full credit for is that he is ‘all-in’ to our group. Obviously there is uncertainty with what could happen, but I know one thing that he’s assured me and shown me with his play that he’s committed to this group; to winning with this group; and if something changes, it changes, but for right now he’s ‘all-in’ to us.”
It’s not likely the Blues would trade within their conference unless they received some quality pieces in return. It’s expected Shattenkirk will be dealt to a playoff contender with the March 1 trade deadline around the corner. His $4.25 million cap hit is friendly now for any contenders looking for that extra push, but Shattenkirk is bound to get a pay raise for next season and beyond.