If the team does anything, it will be buying. They have remained near the top of the standings all season long despite injuries to vital players. As is, this is a very competitive team capable of making a solid playoff run. They might need to add a piece or two to finish the Stanley Cup puzzle.
What the Blues will do
This is pretty unpredictable at this point. If you would have asked me a couple weeks ago, I would tell you the Blues would stand pat and remain silent at the deadline. However, once news broke that Jamie Langenbrunner would miss at least the next 4 weeks with a broken foot, all bets were off. The Blues also have injuries to other key players such as Alex Steen and Matt D’Agostini. Several defenseman (Carlo Colaiacovo/Kris Russell) have been banged up as well. These injuries could shift the Blues from a team that was content where it was into a team that needs to add a piece or two prior to the deadline. If this trio had a more predictable or positive few weeks ahead of them, the Blues would likely sit back and watch what happens during the deadline.
Chris Stewart has been discussed heavily as the trade deadline approaches, but I’m not sure the Blues want to part with him. Granted, Stewart hasn’t been what the club expected in 2011-12. Coming into the year, expectations were that Stewart would have no problem scoring 30 goals and might even flirt with the 40-goal plateau. Obviously this hasn’t been the case. However, the Blues know what Stewart is capable of and know that he could be one tweak away from becoming the offensive weapon he was when he first came to the Blues late in 2010-11.
Now, that’s not saying Chris Stewart is safe from being traded. In my opinion, few players are actually “safe” as the deadline approaches. The Blues have stated that they have no intent of dealing Stewart and most of my brain believes them. He has struggled but I’m not so sure it’s time to abandon ship. Interest is high in the forward – a clear indication that a whole bunch of teams believe Stewart’s struggles are temporary and not the new norm.
If you ask the fans, the Blues need high-scoring forward. Every team could use this. The Blues could use some additional depth up front now that Langenbrunner is on the shelf. This depth needs to come cheap as the Blues are still carrying on without a real owner, limiting what the team can take on in the form of salary. The club could also use an experienced defenseman as the current group is mostly compiled of young, inexperienced players that might be exposed in the playoffs.
Players Interested In
That’s really anyone’s guess. The St. Louis front office has done extremely well in getting deals done without letting on to what they are doing – see the Shattenkirk & Stewart / Erik Johnson deal from last year. We know they have an interest in an experienced forward / defenseman, but we also know that this front office is extremely intelligent and isn’t about to overspend on a rental. That being said, the Blues have had talks with the Washington Capitals. As for who those talks were about, your guess is as good as mine.
What Can They Offer
The name that immediately leaps off the page is goaltender Ben Bishop. One of the best goaltenders currently in the AHL, Bishop is in the last year of his contract and has expressed a strong desire to play in the NHL. The Blues have blocked Bishop’s path to the NHL with both Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott signed through 2013-14. Realistically, Bishop will leave the club when his contract expires so that he can finally get a shot at the NHL level. However, if the front office doesn’t see a deal they like at the deadline, they won’t rush in and make a trade. There is a real possibility the Blues won’t address the Bishop situation until the summer.
One area the Blues have little concern is the salary cap. The Blues could, theoretically, take on an enormous contract. Realistically however, they can’t and they won’t. The current ownership is trying to sell the club – a story that has dragged on since last season. Without any solid financial backing, the Blues are pretty much stuck where they are in terms of salary with a self imposed cap.