Yesterday the St. Louis Blue traded Jaroslav Halak and Chris Stewart to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Ryan Miller and Steve Ott. It had been rumored for quite a while that Miller was on the trade block and that St. Louis seemed to be his likely destination. Steve Ott and Chris Stewart appear to have been an “add-ons” during the trade discussions yesterday. Many believed that if the Blues could acquire Miller or any high-end goalie that they would put themselves in a great position to win the Cup. Well, now they have Miller and most analysts believe the Blues are the team to beat in the NHL. I’m not so sure that I agree 100 percent with that, but they definitely are one of the top 3 teams in the league.
With St. Louis trading for Miller, they also put the pressure on the rest of the top teams in the Western Conference to get better prior to the passing of the March 5th trade deadline. Teams like Chicago, Anaheim, L.A., and San Jose now need to take a good look at themselves and ask the question, “Are we good enough to come out of the West and reach the Stanley Cup Final?” St. Louis put themselves in a spot where they now believe they are good enough, and it’s up to the other top teams to respond.
Stan Bowman, Chicago’s GM, was asked last night while on the NHL Network if he is planning on making any moves at the deadline. To sum up his response, he said that he is confident in the team that the Blackhawks have, and brought up the facts that this is basically the same team that won last year’s Cup, and they already went out and traded for Kris Versteeg earlier this year and acquired Peter Regin and Pierre Marc-Bouchard right before the Olympic break.
Because I live in Chicago, I hear mostly everything that Bowman says regarding the Blackhawks. I cannot say the same for the teams out west, so I don’t know what those GM’s have said over the past few days regarding the trade deadline. However, let’s look at what those teams, along with the Blackhawks, may try and look for at the deadline.
The Kings currently find themselves sitting in third place in the Pacific division. Many believed they would finish no lower than second in the division coming into this season. Unfortunately for them, they once again are putting together a somewhat disappointing season. They are second to last in the West in goals-scored this year, which has been a problem for this team over the past few seasons. Looking ahead to the trade deadline, the Kings may want to try and upgrade their depth at left wing, and they may want to add another top three center. Their defense is among the best in the league, as the Kings as a team have allowed the second fewest goals in the NHL. It goes without saying that they’re just fine in net.
San Jose Sharks
San Jose is second in the Pacific at the moment with a 12 point lead over L.A. They are getting a healthy Logan Couture back now that the Olympics are over with. He will most likely slide right back into one of the top two center positions, bumping Joe Pavelski back out to the wing where he has played much of this season and on and off throughout his career. Looking at the Sharks depth chart, it couldn’t hurt them to add a skilled winger to the team, but I believe their biggest need is another defenseman. They don’t have a bad defense right now by any means, but their age is what could hurt them if they get deep into the playoffs. They are one of the older blue lines in the west.
The Ducks are the league’s leading team in points right now, so you wouldn’t really think they need to do a whole lot with their team moving forward. And truthfully, they don’t. If they can go out and somehow trade for a solid top 5 d-man, they would really have themselves set for a deep, deep playoff run. Jonas Hiller is having a great season so far. He was arguably the best goalie at the Olympics with 2 shutouts there, and he added a league-leading 5th shutout last night against the Blues.
The never ending storyline in Chicago isn’t going to end anytime soon. Who can be their number two center? So far this year, Joel Quenneville has tried Michal Handzus, Brandon Pirri, Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger, and now Peter Regin in that position. No one seems to be the right fit. It makes it hard for a guy like Patrick Kane who keeps having to adjust to a new center on his line. At the same time, however, this was the same issue facing the Hawks just a year ago, and we all know how last season turned out. I don’t think they will be trading for another center at the deadline. If they do make a trade, it will almost positively be for a depth defenseman. Right now Sheldon Brookbank is their 7th d-man, and the thought of him having to be the guy to step up if one of their top 6 defensmen goes down is scary. Adding a proven guy to their blue line depth would be quietly very important for this team.
You could even throw the Avalanche into this discussion if you wanted to, but I don’t think they will get a top two seed in the Central.
Looking at the West’s top teams right now with Miller and Ott now on the Blues, I think that they are the team to watch out for. Anaheim leads the league in points, but for whatever I’m just not sold on them. Maybe it’s because I don’t get to watch them as often as I do Chicago and St. Louis. The Blues are a rough, physical and big team that can also put the puck in the back of the net just as well as almost any team in the league. Not to mention that they are third in the NHL in fewest goals against.
I would not expect any of the other top teams in the West to make a huge move like the Blues did. For one, those are not easy trades to make. Secondly, I don’t think any top team wants to trade a significant piece of their NHL team (along with prospects) to land a big name player, which is what it would take to do so. Ryan Kesler’s name has come up in trade rumors, but I don’t think he’s going anywhere until this summer, and that’s if he even does get traded.
This should be an interesting deadline in seeing what moves certain teams do and/or don’t make.