The pre-season wasn't kind to the St. Louis Blues. A rash of injuries depleted their roster, forcing general manager Doug Armstrong to seek help via free agency.
Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is sidelined with a fractured ankle while left wing Alex Steen (hand) is listed as week-to-week. Forward Zach Sanford (shoulder) is out indefinitely. They're also missing center Patrik Berglund, who's out until December recuperating from off-season shoulder surgery. The biggest loss is winger Robby Fabbri. He's gone for the season after re-injuring his surgically repaired left knee. The promising 21-year-old was expected to be one of the Blues' top-six forwards this season.
Armstrong made one foray into free agency to bolster his depth, bringing back winger Scottie Upshall on a one-year, $800K contract. Upshall, 33, spent the last two seasons with the Blues as a checking-line forward. He had recently completed a professional tryout offer with the Vancouver Canucks.
Ryan Kennedy observes the Blues carry some good forward prospects in their system. The notables include Tage Thompson and Klim Kostin. They also have Oskar Sundqvist, who spent parts of the last two seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Armstrong could give one or two of those youngsters some consideration. However, he appears to have other moves in mind.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the Blues GM made a contract offer to free agent Jaromir Jagr over the week. The 45-year-old right wing instead opted to sign with the Calgary Flames. Other free-agent forward options include aging veterans such as Jarome Iginla and Brian Gionta. Those under 30 include Brandon Pirri and Alex Chiasson.
Limited cap space could hamper Armstrong's forays into free agency or the trade market. He could end up placing Berglund ($3.8 million), Fabbri ($894K) or Sanford ($875K) on long-term injury reserve to free up sufficient cap room to add another forward.
The Blues plight could generate speculation linking them to Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene. He's a frequent target of trade chatter but probably too expensive for Armstrong. The Avs reportedly seek a young, established top-four defenseman, a first-round draft pick and a top prospect as part of the return. Duchene also carries a hefty $6-million cap hit through 2018-19.
GOLDEN KNIGHTS NEED TO CLEAR BLOATED BLUELINE
With the NHL season opening Wednesday, the Vegas Golden Knights still have a log jam on the blueline. As of Monday, the Knights still carried 11 defensemen on one-way contracts. Griffin Reinhart and Brad Hunt could be demoted to the minors. Shea Theodore is exempt from waivers but he's expected to stick with the roster. Golden Knights GM George McPhee could attempt to peddle one or two in the trade market.
Last Tuesday, McPhee told Sportsnet's Hockey Central at Noon he was open to trading one of his defensemen. He said he had starting returning calls from clubs looking to obtain a blueliner. Sportsnet's Rory Boylen suggested veteran Jason Garrison could be a decent trade candidate. The 32-year-old is eligible next July for unrestricted free agency. He's reached the 30-point mark three times but his best seasons are behind him now. Garrison's earning an affordable $2.5 million in actual salary. However, his annual cap hit of $4.6 million could prove tough to move unless McPhee is willing to absorb part of it. He also carries a full no-trade clause.
The Edmonton Journal's David Staples reports the Oilers' lack of depth among their bottom-three defense could be cause for concern if one or two of their top blueliners gets hurt. Staples cites colleague Jim Matheson suggesting Vegas' Colin Miller or Jon Merrill as possible options for the Oilers. Each earns less than $1.2 million and wouldn't put a significant dent into Edmonton's $10-million salary-cap space.
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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