The rumors rise and fall like the tides of the ocean when we talk about the trade talk revolving around the St. Louis Blues. It is in a bit of a valley right now, but there is no doubt there are still talks behind the scenes.
The St. Louis Blues are getting close to finding themselves between a rock and a hard place. Kevin Shattenkirk has looked better defensively, even if only slightly, since Ken Hitchcock’s departure.
The Blues themselves have also seen a resurgence under Mike Yeo, winning four of five and three in a row since his ascension to the head spot. So, what are they to do?
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We all assume the team will trade Kevin Shattenkirk since there seems to be almost no way they could keep him financially. That makes sense and the reality is this team does not seem like a Stanley Cup challenger even with their recent comeback.
That does not mean they have to be sellers though. A couple weeks ago you could make the case that you deal Shattenkirk for a box of rocks just to get something in return.
If the Blues are more patient now, maybe you play hardball with teams interested. There are still plenty of teams interested in an offensive defenseman to drive their powerplay. You just need to convince them that renting Shattenkirk is the better idea than trying to wait until the summer.
If Doug Armstrong can convince some teams of that – I can feel the collective eyes rolling, but stick with me here – the Blues could still gain some benefit. Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch has sensed little interest in giving up an NHL player for Shattenkirk, but Armstrong needs to do his best Used-car salesman pitch.
If, and I stress if, he could swing a big deal, there might not be any bigger deal than bringing in James van Riemsdyk. van Riemsdyk is probably a pipe dream, and I admit that, but it would be huuuuuuge, to paraphrase our President.
The Blues have a plethora of wingers. When healthy, St. Louis has a lineup full of wingers plus a couple sitting in the pressbox.
Kenny Agostino has been incredibly impressive in the AHL and also looked like a decent third-line player if he was given a run in the NHL.
Whether it is current NHL guys or minor league players, the Blues have made a habit of moving some of their centers to wing as well. With that all in mind, why would they need another wing when the team is so thin up the middle?
Well, when you can get someone you know can produce, you don’t pass that up. Granted, you never know how any player will fit with a certain group, but the stats say you know what you’ll get from the elder van Riemsdyk.
van Riemsdyk is a consistent goal scorer. There have been some health issues, but when he is in the lineup he can light the lamp.
He has a 30 goal season, but normally you can expect him to get somewhere in the 20’s. That may not excite some people. When you consider Vladimir Tarasenko is a premier scorer and only got 40 last season, then 20’s is pretty good in today’s NHL.
van Riemsdyk can set people up as well. He has averaged 40 points per season over his career, but that includes some injury shortened seasons and a lockout year as well.
He’s gone as high as 61 and 56 points in a season, so the talent is in there. The Blues would just need to keep it coming out since van Riemsdyk is having close to a career year with 19 goals and 43 points through 53 games this year.
As briefly mentioned, van Riemsdyk has not always kept himself healthy. That’s not to say it is his fault. Players get injured. With the Blues history of injury problems recently, it seems a gamble to take a chance on a player that has a history of missing games.
The problem with his missed time is it has been significant. There have been two seasons where he only played in 40 or so games. That’s a lot of time missed if you are going to be getting paid a decent salary.
That’s another potential drawback, his contract. He’s getting paid right around the same number as Shattenkirk right now at $4.25 million.
On the plus side that means you’d basically be making an even swap. The worry would be this constant rumble below the surface that the Blues need to jettison that kind of money to be able to afford their upcoming RFA’s and UFA’s (restricted/unrestricted free agents).
Additionally, van Riemsdyk’s contract ends after 2017-18 and he has a no trade clause. So, he would take up a protected spot for the upcoming expansion draft and then would be another player to make a decision about the summer after next.
Even taking the negatives into account, I think you make this deal if the Maple Leafs are interested. Despite having a top-five powerplay, Toronto could still benefit from Shattenkirk’s presence on that unit.
The Blues could use more consistency up front as well. They desperately need help up the middle. Who knows when Tage Thompson will be ready even though he’s having a good season in college this year. Even so, having another dependable winger really spreads out the talent.
If you put Schwartz on that line, you get a speed line with Fabbri (when healthy obviously) and David Perron. The combination possibilities open up quite nicely. You could even go with a big man line of Patrik Berglund, Jori Lehtera and van Riemsdyk.
We all need to come to grips with the possibility that a Shattenkirk trade may yield no NHL players in return. I do hope the front office is not giving up on the idea. This is not the NHL of the 90’s. Still, not all trades need to be for prospects and picks like the NFL either.
Doug Armstrong has his work cut out for him, but this trade would be another coup like the one that brought Shattenkirk here in the first place. It’s up to him to swing it.