Last Year As Sellers?

With the trade deadline fast approaching, it should be like clockwork for the St Louis Blues.

For the 4th straight year, the Blues will likely be sellers at the deadline as another bottom 5 finish awaits the team.

For the last few seasons since the lockout, the team has moved the likes of Doug Weight, Keith Tkachuk, Mike Sillinger, Eric Weinrich, Bill Guerin, Bryce Salvador, Christian Backman at the deadline for futures as they continue to build a core group of young players to hopefully bring a bright future to St Louis.

They’ve done a fine job and they are hoping maybe another deal that brings them someone like Brad Boyes is there for the taking.

The following are due to become UFAs: Keith Tkachuk, Andy McDonald, Dan Hinote, Brad Winchester, Mike Weaver, Manny Legace.

According to nhlnumbers.com their cap hit is $55 million

While they would love to re-sign their two key vets, Tkachuk and McDonald, they know full well to not waste any opportunities and risk losing a player for nothing.

Some possibilities:

Tkachuk to Dallas for Mark Fistric and a 2nd

McDonald to FLA for Kendall McArdle and a 2nd

McDonald to Buf for Marek Zagrapans and a 2nd

Tkachuk to NYR for Peter Prucha and a 2nd

Tkachuk to Pitt for a 1st

Tkachuk to Van for Michal Grabner and a 2nd

Hopefully for the Blues sake this is the last time they have to venture this route as the losing may be taking a toll on the franchise. There is only so much the fans can take. (They may however have to endure one more year of this as Kariya, McKee, Colaiacovo are due to be UFAs in 2010).

To get back on track, they need to strengthen their goaltending. Prospect Ben Bishop may be the answer in the future, but in the immediate future, they need a consistent presence in goal.

Their defence is going to be solid. Vets Eric Brewer and Barret Jackman will be around to support Erik Johnson, Alex Pietrangelo and Ian Cole, the future of the team on the backend.

Up front, their other big need is a front line franchise type forward. They have a really strong support scoring group that if led by a star, could flourish. The likes of Boyes, David Perron, David Backes, TJ Oshie, Patrick Berglund, Alex Steen, BJ Crombreen, Lars Eller, Roman Polak are good young players, but there lacks a true top end superstar along the lines of a Crosby, Ovechkin or Malkin to lead this group.

They just may acheive that if they somehow win the lottery and get a chance to pick up John Tavares. For one thing, the Blues arent strong up the middle, and secondly, he is the kind of heralded, young stud who could re-invigorate the franchise in great need of star power.

Top Rookies/Prospects:

Alex Pietrangelo – The Blues “get it” as they sent Pietrangelo back to junior after a brief stint to start the season in St Louis. He was able to play at the WJC and be a sound contributor to a winning team. He is now averaging over a point a game in junior, getting a ton of playing time. Pietrangelo didnt quite appear strong enough to handle the grind just yet, but has the offensive skills to be one heck of a player.

TJ Oshie – Oshie is having a fine rookie campaign after 3 excellent years in the NCAA. He has had some injury troubles but 11 points in 20 games without any AHL experience is a pretty sound start to a career. He has good size, speed and a willingness to go into traffic. He should be a fine 2nd line player for the Blues.

Patrik Berglund – Berglund is one of the league’s top rookies. He is a definite Calder candidate leading rookies in goals with 14, 2nd in points with 29 and 3rd in plus-minus with a +13 rating. He has made a great transition from Europe to North America and should be an offensive catalyst for quite some time for the Blues.

Lars Eller – The young Dane is another fine offensive forward in the Blues ranks. He is currently playing in the SEL holding his own with 8 goals in 34 games as a teen against more senior competition. He will more than likely be on Team Denmark at the upcoming WC in Switzerland this coming April.

Ian Cole – Cole is the less heralded defence prospect sitting behind Johnson and Pietrangelo on the depth chart. Cole has good size to go with offensive skill and should be a nice compliment for the big 2. He had a decent WJC with 4 points in 6 games. He is finishing up his Sophmore season in the NCAA and it will be intieresting to see if he leaves school early.

Others – Ben Bishop, Phil MacRae, Cade Fairchild, Brent Sonne, Jake Allen

The Blues are really close. The have a fine young team and are doing all the right things to build a great future there. But there is missing that big name player to bring everything together. Getting Tavares or even the highly regarded Victor Hedman could be the kind of big time prospect to put the Blues over the top for years to come. For now, they are bottome feeders looking to sell. But sell for brighter days ahead.