(HockeyStL) -- The February 27 trade deadline is right around the corner. Teams always look to make a splash on this day because it’s the last chance they have to make a trade. Last year this is exactly what GM Doug Armstrong did. The Blues were already too far out of the playoffs to worry about bettering their team last year, and named themselves as sellers at the trade deadline. The Blues traded away Captain Eric Brewer which was a surprise in itself, but nothing compared to what was coming. The news was leaked early in the morning that the Blues had traded young defenseman Erik Johnson and veteran center Jay McClement to the Colorado Avalanche in return for All Star rookie defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and power forward Chris Stewart.
This year, the Blues are in a completely different situation. The Blues hold the 4th spot in the Western Conference and unlike years before, they are considered buyers at the trade deadline. It’s safe to say that Doug Armstrong does not want to tamper with the team’s chemistry, and without having new ownership, it may be hard for Armstrong to pull off a big deal but Armstrong has surprised before. The two names that have been brought up a lot in rumors are goaltender Ben Bishop and forward Chris Stewart but for two completely different reasons.
Chris Stewart, 24, has been the focus of all trade rumors concerning the Blues this year. Stewart has been the biggest disappointment this season scoring far less than expected, and failing to make an impact when he’s on the ice. Looking to send a message, Ken Hitchcock demoted Chris Stewart to the Blues' 4th line for Thursday's game, which is a slap in the face for any hockey player. Despite several line mix ups this year, the Blues and Ken Hitchcock have been unable to spark Stewart which is why he has been involved in trade rumors.
Friday night TSN's Darren Dreger appeared on 101 ESPN and addressed the Stewart trade rumors. Dreger knows Ken Hitchcock very well and said that by demoting Stewart to the 4th line, Hitchcock still has faith in him. Dreger says that if Ken Hitchcock is still using his time to get a player going, he still has faith in him. Based on this I believe Dreger was saying that it is not for certain that Stewart is moved. Stewart is a restricted free agent after this year, but the biggest question is: will the Blues be interested in re-signing him? If not, you would have to believe they want to get something for him.
Ben Bishop is the other name that has come up in rumors. The 25 year old goaltender is set to become an unrestricted free agent if he is not given at least 15 games with at least 30 minutes of playing time in each at the NHL level. Bishop has been arguably the AHL goaltender of the year this season and could bring a hefty return for the Blues however, unless a team is in desperate need of a goaltender now, they may wait until the offseason where they can get him without giving up anything in return.
It does not appear that the Blues have many players that they are willing to part with, and with teams in the league quickly turning from sellers into buyers; there are not a lot of options. It is safe to assume that the Blues will not make any dramatic changes, and as well as they are playing it is easy to get on board with that concept.
Keep in mind, no one knows what moves the Blues will make because GM Doug Armstrong does his best work in stealth mode, and until a trade is made official, very few people know of it.
The Blues are looking for a veteran, left-handed defenseman but many of those have already been taken out of the market, so as of right now it looks as though the Blues will stand pat and will rely on their current players to get the job done for at least the rest of this season.
--- Andrew Allsman, HockeyStL