posted on January 16, 2014 07:00
Mark your calendar for February 7th and March 5th. ESPN's Pierre LeBrun made an interesting observation earlier this week that the NHL could have two trade deadlines in this Olympic year. One occurs 22 days from now when National Hockey League rosters will freeze for the Winter Olympic break and the other occurs in 48 days at the league's official trade deadline.
Some teams may look to make their move before the Olympics begin. From the end of the Olympics to the league's deadline, NHL clubs will only have a 10-day window to manuver their rosters between buyers and sellers. What if someone gets injured during the Olympics? Now a team may need to fill an additional need, and the shuffling of active teams near the deadline increases. If you can address your needs before the Olympics, you get in early on acquiring the piece you need and you avoid the potential craziness of a 10-day shopping spree come the trade deadline.
So how does this affect the St. Louis Blues?
Well, the Ryan Miller chatter has already begun. Technically it started last season, but now that the veteran goaltender is in the final year of his contract with the Buffalo Sabres it's a little louder. As each day ticks away toward the trade deadline it will continue to grow... and this year there's a second "alternate" deadline with the Olympics. Because one week of trade speculation isn't enough, this year we'll be treated to it twice.
To add fuel to the fire, some of the trade movement has already begun and we're still a month away from the league's Olympic roster freeze. The Edmonton Oilers decided their young goaltender Devan Dubnyk wasn't the answer for the future and shipped him off to Nashville. The Los Angeles Kings then moved one of their goaltenders in the cupboard to Edmonton in Ben Scrivens. The Carolina Hurricanes are currently managing the rumor mill with their top netminder in Cam Ward.
Eventually the spotlight will shine on Miller and everyone will be looking at the Blues as the potential dance partner.
However, the moving van charges for the Blues and Ryan Miller could be a hefty one.
The way the roster currently sits, the Blues will have to create about $6 million in salary cap space if they want to add Miller. According to CapGeek.com the Blues sit almost at the line. Doug Armstrong has proven he is a smart, creative hockey mind. Could he swing a deal? Yes, he could, but the question Armstrong faces is what will the cost be?
Do the Blues have extra defensemen on their roster? Yes, but Ian Cole and Carlo Colaiacovo don't add up to $6 million.
Draft picks don't add up to $6 million dollars.
When you look at strictly the mathematics of the situation, the Blues will have to give up a lot if they want to add Miller. Jaroslav Halak only clears $3.7 million of cap space. Brian Elliot? $1.8 million. Derek Roy ($4 million) and Patrik Berglund ($3.25 million) are each playing on one-year contracts, which makes them rental players. Chris Stewart is on a two-year deal worth $4.15 million.
How comfortable do you feel moving a combination of those names?
Moving one of the longer term contracts that have been signed in the past year would help open up cap space. What about Jay Bouwmeester ($6.6 million), Kevin Shattenkirk ($4.25 million), or TJ Oshie ($4.175 million)? What do you think of shipping off one of those names?
I didn't think so.
The strength of the Blues this season has been their depth. Injuries to key players throughout this season haven't derailed the fact that the Blues hold one of the best records in the league. Do you want to deplete the very depth that has been the anchor of this team all season long?
In a word -- No.
Step away from the dollars and cents for a moment, and examine who you are dealing with. The Buffalo Sabres are in a full-blown mode of house cleaning. They have reset the top of their hockey operations pyramid. A new general manager was just put in place. They've already shipped off their top veteran talent and are in the market for youth. Do names like Halak, Elliot, Berglund, or Roy sound like what they're looking for?
For a top-flight, impact goaltender like Miller, the Sabres will want players like Jake Allen, Vladamir Sobotka, or Jaden Schwartz. After the kind of production those players have generated this season, Doug Armstrong isn't about to part ways with young, cheap talent. You don't walk away from high production at a low cost. Just look at what Michael Wacha and Matt Carpenter have done for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Would I like to see Ryan Miller in a Blues sweater? Absolutely. He's a veteran goaltender widely regarded as one of the best in the NHL. A true number one. But it falls back to the question of what will the cost be?
The math doesn't add up. The personnel doesn't add up.
Aside from goaltending headaches, the other key reason the Blues of the early 2000's couldn't get over the hump to a Stanley Cup Final is they eventually ran into the two deepest teams in the league, the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche.
NHL general managers have their calendars marked. This year the NHL will have not one, but two Sunday newspaper sales for teams to go grocery shopping.
Doug Armstrong and the St. Louis Blues should choose to stay home instead. Their fridge is already stocked.