For several weeks, the St. Louis Blues have regularly appeared in the trade rumor mill. There's talk defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk's UFA status in 2017 could force GM Doug Armstrong to move the skilled blueliner this season. Among the clubs believed pursuing Tampa Bay Lightning winger Jonathan Drouin, the Blues are said to be the front-runners.
Jeremy P. Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the Blues need an offensive jolt, as they've dropped to 21st in scoring. They also began this week with 167 man games lost to injury. However, Armstrong tells Rutherford he doesn't expect any trade activity until after the upcoming NHL All-Star break, possibly not until closer to the Feb. 29 trade deadline.
The Blues GM is keen on making a hockey trade, rather than swapping a young player for a veteran or vice versa. In other words, he's not planning to dump pending free agents like center David Backes, right wing Troy Brouwer or versatile forward Patrik Berglund for picks and prospects. Armstrong said he's in “play for now mode.” His offense should also get a boost when sidelined left wing Jaden Schwartz returns to action.
For Armstrong to make a hockey trade, Shattenkirk could be his best bargaining chip. Of course, it'll depend upon the Blues' needs as the trade deadline approaches. Recent speculation suggests moving Shattenkirk to the Lightning for Drouin won't happen, as Bolts GM Steve Yzerman doesn't want to add to his current contract concerns.
Given a recent report claiming the Edmonton Oilers dangled center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the Nashville Predators for Seth Jones before the latter was shipped to the Columbus Blue Jackets, perhaps the Oilers center could interest Armstrong. However, with Nugent-Hopkins out with a hand injury, the Blues GM will probably look elsewhere.
CANUCKS LIKELY STUCK WITH HIGGINS
The Vancouver Canucks' demotion of left wing Chris Higgins has some observers wondering if GM Jim Benning will keep trying to trade the 32-year-old veteran. While Higgins' experience could interest clubs seeking checking-line depth, his $2.5-million cap hit through 2016-17 was one reason why he cleared waivers.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun believes the Canucks must absorb part of Higgin's cap hit if they hope to trade him this season. The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa wonders if the Columbus Blue Jackets are interested, as Higgins played for Jackets coach John Tortorella before. Such a move, however, seems unlikely by the Jackets, whose playoff hopes are now all but dashed. Higgins would be of little help.
Garrioch also wonders what Benning will do with pending UFAs like right wing Radim Vrbata and defensemen Dan Hamhuis and Yannick Weber at the trade deadline. While the Canucks GM could listen to offers, the trade status of those players will depend upon where the clubs sits in the standings. Benning is attempting to rebuild while remaining in playoff contention. If the Canucks remain in the playoff hunt, Vrbata, Hamhuis and Weber could stay put.
Speaking of veteran forwards headed to the minors, Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell was demoted to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs for the second time this season. The 29-year-old went unclaimed after being placed on waivers Saturday.
Bickell's agent, Todd Diamond, told Scott Powers of the Chicago Sun-Times he's hopeful a trade can be worked out for his client, adding Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman is open to that possibility. The problem, of course, is Bickell's contract, which runs through 2016-17 at a cap hit of $4 million.
Bowman tried trading Bickell last summer but found no takers. With only two assists in 23 NHL games this season, the 6-foot-4, 223-pound winger did nothing to improve his value in the trade market.
Some rival GMs could use Bickell as a physical checking-line winger, but not at his current salary. Unless the 'Hawks are willing to pick up part of it, or take back some salary in return, the possibility of Bickell getting dealt this season appears remote.
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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