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Rumor Roundup: Early exit could mean roster shakeup for Blues

The St. Louis Blues were eliminated in the first round by the Minnesota Wild, and it was the Blues’ third straight early exit. With St. Louis’ window possibly closing, it’s possible the Blues could be in line for a roster shakeup. Meanwhile, Michael Grabner could be out as a New York Islander.

Another St. Louis Blues early playoff exit sparked speculation a roster shakeup could be in the works this summer. However, such moves might not be easy to pull off.

Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the combination of the Blues’ limited cap space this summer and a marginal increase in the cap ceiling for 2015-16 could force GM Doug Armstrong into salary-dumping trades for draft picks and prospects or dollar-for-dollar deals.

Timmermann observes the Blues have over $57 million invested in 17 players for 2015-16. Assuming the cap ceiling reaches $71.5 million, that leaves over $14 million in cap space. He expects $10 million to be taken up in raises for scoring star Vladimir Tarasenko, goalie Jake Allen and blueliner Robert Bortuzzo. If forward Vladimir Sobotka returns next season, his arbiter-awarded contract will use up another $2.7 million..

Armstrong tells Timmermann he won’t make a trade just for the sake of doing so, adding he’s not interested in deals which could hurt his club long term. Six Blues (Paul Statsny, Alexander Steen, David Backes, Patrik Berglund, Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester) reportedly have no-trade clauses this summer, but Armstrong suggests that doesn’t necessarily mean those players cannot be dealt.

Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester are key components of the Blues’ defense corps while Stastny was only signed last summer via free agency. Those three aren’t going anywhere. Steen, Backes and Berglund, however, have been mentioned as possible trade candidates.

Berglund’s no-trade doesn’t kick in until July 1, meaning Armstrong could ship him anywhere without the 26-year-old’s consent. T.J. Oshie, carrying an annual cap hit of $4.175 million, lacks a no-movement clause and seems a likely trade prospect.

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Newsday’s Arthur Staple speculates right winger Michael Grabner could be the odd man out on the crowded New York Islanders’ forward lines. Grabner, 27, missed most of this season to hernia surgery. With a year remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $3 million ($5 million in actual salary), he could become a trade chip.

Staple notes Grabner, when healthy, adds speed and defensive awareness to the roster. He also has a decent scoring touch, tallying a career-high 34 goals in 2010-11 and 20 the following season.

The Edmonton Journal’s Jonathan Willis wonders if the Oilers might be interested in the speedy Grabner. He notes they could use a two-way winger for their middle-six forward lines.

The Islanders are lacking picks in the first two rounds of this year’s draft and only one in the first three rounds in 2016. Willis points out the Oilers have two picks in each of the first three rounds of this year’s draft.

It remains to be seen what plans new Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli has for the Oilers, let alone if he has any interest in Grabner. If the Isles are willing to accept a third-rounder, a deal could be there should Chiarelli wish to pursue it.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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