St. Louis Blues' ongoing struggle

Well many people here have been talking about the possibility (although slim) of the St. Louis Blues trading Chris Pronger come the trade deadline due to financial issues. I would like to take this opportunity to shed some light on their current situation and evaluate the likelihood (if any) of the Blues trading any one of their key players.First I would like to start by presenting a couple of interesting facts about the St. Louis Blues. The Blues, having one of the highest salaries in the NHL have managed to win only one playoff round since their President’s Trophy run in 2000. Since then they have bulked up with big name players like Keith Tkachuk and Doug Weight in hopes of solidifying their team. These moves along with a few others have done nothing but increase their payroll and decrease their position in the standings. They have gone 4-5-0-1 in their last 10 games and have been losing to some pretty bad teams as of lately. Their visiting record is far from impressive having won only 11 games of 30 so far this season.

A HUGE reason for their lack of production can obviously be attributed to the injuries to All-Star defensemen Al MacInnis and Barret Jackmann. Although they were playing well up until let’s say a month and a half ago, they’ve since plummeted in the standings to being tied for the 8th and final playoff spot with the Los Angeles Kings (A team that I believe is far worse off injury-wise than the Blues) and are showing no signs of improvement as seen in a recent overtime loss to the Sullivan-less Blackhawks (the 2nd worst team in the NHL).

This small market team includes 5 players that are making over $40 million. These numbers are approximate but Tkachuck is around 10mill, Pronger 9.5mill, Weight 8.5mill, Demitra 6.5mill and MacInnis 6mill.

Now MacInnis could very well be done after this year which frees up that salary which obviously also takes away one of their best defensemen and strongest leaders. Also worth noting is that Demitra, Weight and Tkachuck all have no trade clauses. With such high salaries, it would be pretty hard to find any interest around the league.

Then comes Chris Pronger. He is in the same boat in regards to his high salary but this year’s deadline seems to have a large number of quality forwards with relatively low salaries which pretty much rules our Tkachuck, Weight and Demitra. On defense however, the contenders are looking to beef up the defense and some of the richer teams (Colorado, Toronto, NYR, Philly) would likely be willing to take on Pronger’s high price tag for the leadership, stability and ice time that Pronger can provide. Also at 29 he still has plenty of good years left in him which only helps his stock price.

Obviously the only way that he could possibly be traded is if the Blues are out of playoff contention come the trade deadline. I’m almost positive that the Blue’s budget was set under the assumption that they would make the playoffs and if they don’t then they could be in serious trouble financially and would almost certainly have to make some big changes.

Although it may pain them to lose their former league MVP and one of the best defensemen in the game today, trading him may be the only way to save this team from serious financially difficulty. (This is all assuming of course that nobody would want to take on any of the above mentioned forwards). Pronger has a huge stock price and could offer the Blues some very high quality prospects in return.

If I were the Blues GM and in a position where I wasn’t going to make the playoffs, I would have to seriously consider this as a possibility. Although you all may consider Pronger to be ‘untouchable’ when it comes to trades, keep in mind that nobody on this Blues team has really shown that they are worthy of this title due to mediocre play when it really counts (ie playoff time).

The biggest problem that I have with dealing Pronger is that the Blues would lose a serious leader and the backbone of their defense as well as the entire team. As I mentioned above, the Blues could lose MacInnis to retirement (although I hope they don’t) and if they trade Pronger too, they would have a serious lack of leadership on this team so there are many other factors that would have to be considered.

I’m wondering what the rest of you think of the potential situation that the Blues could be facing. Remember, it should be looked at from the perspective of the Blues being out of playoff contention at the March 9, 2004 trade deadline.

Also I’d like to know what changes you might make should the Blues turn things around and go back to being contenders come the trade deadline…a goalie change perhaps??

PS If anyone knows of a website with the contracts of all players around the league I would greatly appreciate it. I am having a hard time finding it and if I had had such information, I would have taken that into consideration as well for this article.