Januray 28, 11 – A bunch of Hockey Trade Rumors

Change needed for reeling Blues

Flyers targeting Cole?

Will the Wings dump Howard?

Change needed for reeling Blues

The struggling Blues needed a fast start in Calgary on Wednesday night. Instead, they quickly fell behind 1-0 when defenseman Erik Johnson accidentally batted the puck into his own net.

This was a perfectly symbolic moment to capture their 2010-11 season.

The Blues have become one of the NHL’s hard-luck teams. Each week they find new ways to fail.

Change is needed, and quickly.

Johnson has become a particularly vexing figure, faltering at the takeoff point of his career. It was only appropriate Johnson sent the team into the All-Star break on a particularly sour note.

How did the franchise get to this point?

Injuries have been a killer. The crisis extends all the way to the top 2010 draft picks. Jaden Schwartz suffered a broken ankle at the World Junior Championships and Vladimir Tarasenko suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Russia. There is no end to the suffering.

The franchise’s big-money players haven’t paid off. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak has been just so-so this season. Injury-plagued Paul Kariya was an $18 million disaster. Brad Boyes has faded as a goal scorer. Andy McDonald hasn’t stayed healthy. Defenseman Eric Brewer struggled terribly until this season, due largely to debilitating injuries.

The Blues haven’t developed enough offensive firepower. Power forward David Backes is realizing his potential, but center Patrik Berglund isn’t there yet. Winger David Perron might have arrived this season, but he’ll miss most of it with a concussion. T. J. Oshie, just back from his broken ankle, is still defining what sort of offensive player he will become. Philip McRae could become a top six forward some day, but it’s too early for that.

How can the franchise shift out of neutral?

Trade from the defensive surplus for help up front. Anybody should be in play, including Erik Johnson. But the Blues need to make a value move, so Johnson should only depart in a deal for a young, cornerstone-caliber forward. I doubt that deal is out there right now – given Johnson’s startling regression this season – but GM Doug Armstrong should consider all options. Enough is enough.

The good news: Nikita Nikitin has quickly emerged as an NHL-caliber defender. Ian Cole is ready to play, too. Alex Pietrangelo emerged nicely in his first full pro season. That gives the team nine guys for seven spots. Brewer and Barret Jackman are playing at a high level this season, so one of these veterans could appeal to a contender. Carlo Colaiacovo has had a tough year, but his skill set might make him attractive to teams seeking help. Armstrong has chips to play.


Flyers targeting Cole?

The Flyers placed defenseman Matt Walker on waivers Thursday, and the $1.7 million that will come off the books will give them about $3.6 million in acquisition space.

In other words, enough to acquire Carolina’s Erik Cole, a 32-year-old winger who has 13 goals and 15 assists this season.

Cole, who played for cpach Peter Laviolette when the Hurricanes won the 2006 Stanley Cup, is a player who would fit in well with the Flyers. He can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but his $2.9 million salary-cap hit would also fit this year.

Is a deal in the works?

Stay tuned.

As for Walker, he could clear waivers at noon on Friday. If he clears, he will be sent to the AHL Phantoms.

“Matt needs to play,” GM Paul Holmgren said.

Walker, a physical player, has had surgery to each hip this season and has only played four games with the Flyers. He was viewed as insurance in case one of the Flyers’ defensemen was injured down the stretch.


Will the Wings dump Howard?

Lost in the Evgeni Nabokov saga is the Detroit Red Wings’ long-term outlook in goal.

The Wings signed Nabokov to a one-year contract – only to lose him on waivers to the New York Islanders, who have suspended him for not reporting. The Wings did it ostensibly because he was cheap, solid insurance with backup Chris Osgood(notes) recovering from a groin injury.

But the Wings have a history of acquiring veteran players for the short term, then watching those players thrive and stay. And Osgood and starter Jimmy Howard both are slated to become unrestricted free agents on July 1.

Acquiring Nabokov could have given the Wings a chance to evaluate for the future, too. The fact that they got him to sign, even though they didn’t get him, still might serve as a subtle reminder that there is value in playing for a strong, deep team.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Howard, who spent a long apprenticeship in the minors and makes a salary of $716,667 this season, according to capgeek.com. He turns 27 on March 26 and is at a point where he might want to cash in.

Detroit general manager Ken Holland, who started the trend of spending a relatively small percentage of salary cap dollars on goaltending, has not spoken much yet to Howard’s agents.

“We’d like to keep Jimmy,” Holland said. “We’ve had some very brief conversations going a ways back. Ultimately, when a player is an unrestricted free agent, it’s their opportunity to see what their value is on the open market.

“He’s going to be 27 years of age. He’s in the prime of his career. Obviously people have seen what our philosophy has been in building … now, we understand we have to put more into goal than we have. So we’ll see.

“It’s late January. Free agency begins July 1. I’m sure we’ll have conversations before July 1 comes and goes.


One Response to Januray 28, 11 – A bunch of Hockey Trade Rumors

  1. mojo19 says:

    Interesting article.

    Erik Johnson for David Booth ???

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