Blues trade rumors soaring as Friday’s roster freeze nears

Blues trade rumors soaring as Friday’s roster freeze nears

BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 05: Ryan Miller #30 of the Buffalo Sabres is greeted by fans as he heads to the ice for warmups before the Sabres game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at First Niagara Center on February 5, 2014 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Sean Rudyk/Getty Images)


by Andrew Allsman, HockeySTL

Posted on February 6, 2014 at 10:06 AM

Updated Thursday, Feb 6 at 12:30 PM

(HockeySTL)-- A few weeks ago a deal was complete to send Olympic goaltender Ryan Miller to the Blues for goaltender Jaroslav Halak, prospect Ty Rattie, and a first round draft pick. Or at least that is what a self-proclaimed “insider” claimed.

Obviously, no such deal occurred, but despite the impossibilities surrounding such a deal, it sent the hockey world into a frenzy as the Miller to the Blues rumors were re-ignited with a fiery passion.

There was, and still is a lot of smoke surrounding the Blues’ interest in Miller, which is very likely. However, it’s not the only rumor the Blues are associated with.

With the unofficial trade deadline closing in at the end of this week, rumors are beginning to surface. Due to the Olympic break, a roster freeze will be imposed this Friday at 3 p.m. ET, making for an interesting day. National Hockey League general managers will be looking to shed the salaries of players not in their future plans to avoid having to pay them during the Olympic pause.

Such rumors started surfacing this past week and are beginning to heat up. The Blues are involved in a few of them.

This past weekend the Blues were connected to New York Rangers’ forward Ryan Callahan. Callahan is in the final year of a three-year, $12.825 million contract agreement with the Rangers and is reportedly looking for a lengthy extension worth nearly $7 million annually on any new contract. If the two parties are too far apart when the Mar. 5 trade deadline arrives, he could be moved and the Blues would be interested.

TSN’s Darren Dreger was the first to report the Blues’ interest in Callahan, speculating that Chris Stewart could be one of the pieces that would go to New York in an exchange. Dreger said that the Rangers had been gathering “intel” on Stewart and had a reported interest in the forward.  On Monday, Dreger said that the deal for Callahan involving Stewart is “still there” if the Rangers’ negotiations with Callahan don’t trend north.

Stewart, who has one more season remaining on his two-year deal, has a salary comparable to Callahan’s, which is one reason why the deal makes sense.

The other reason is that Callahan, who will become a free agent at the season’s end, will be viewed as a rental player for interested teams. The Rangers won’t want to lose their captain for absolutely nothing, and while a Stewart for Callahan, one-on-one swap is unlikely, Callahan could be available for a rather cheap price. Per multiple reports, teams have been granted access by the Rangers to speak with Callahan’s agent. Several teams have done so in the past week.

Callahan would make sense for St. Louis, and certainly more sense than the Miller trade rumors that were blowing about two weeks ago.

The Blues have interest in the Buffalo goaltender, but if the price was right, he would be sporting the Note right now.

Buffalo’s general manager, Tim Murray, confirmed this week on WG550 radio that he has had talks with teams about the 33-year old goaltender.

“I’m ready to deal, I just need a partner,” he said.”

The Blues could very well be one of the teams in talks with Buffalo, but that’s likely where things will remain unless Buffalo gives a little.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong has always made deals centered on a certain comfort level. It would be hard for one to be comfortable with what Buffalo is reportedly asking for, which is a top prospect, a first round pick, and a goaltender as well. For the Blues to give in to that asking price, they would likely have to have a window for negotiating a contract extension with the goaltender, who becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season. But then there is the issue of staying below the salary cap.

The Blues will have $2.89 million in cap space at the Mar. 5 deadline, but that would barely cover Miller’s salary, even if the club sends away one of its two goalies. That being said, it’s not an impossible maneuver, just an improbable one.

There is also the debate as to whether or not there is a need for goaltending help. Halak has won eight of his last 12 games; Brian Elliott has won six of his last nine starts. The Blues have allowed the third-fewest goals in the entire League, have the third-most wins, the second-most shutouts, but are 15th in save percentage. With Miller, the Blues’ chances at a Stanley Cup would be greater, but is the difference worth the asking price? It’s a question general manager Doug Armstrong will be pondering over the next couple of weeks.

But with a flurry of activity predicted for this week’s unofficial deadline, Armstrong may not have a couple of weeks. If the Blues general manager is going to make a move this week, it will be one too good to pass up. A Callahan for Stewart deal would fit that bill, but it is possible that the Rangers will hold on to their captain and try some last-minute negotiating.

Of the two deals the Blues are rumored to be involved in, the Callahan deal certainly makes the most sense for the club. It is an upgrade offensively, and is cap-friendly. But with Callahan, there is a chance that it wouldn’t be a long-term upgrade. And Armstrong doesn’t normally target rental players. Miller is more of a long-shot for St. Louis, it appears. That being said, until Miller is traded elsewhere, don’t count the Blues out of the running for the goaltender, as their interest has persisted for almost a year.

The Blues currently have a 37-12-6, and are on pace for their best season in franchise history. No knee-jerk reactions will be made by Armstrong at this deadline, or the Mar. 5 deadline. Because of the depth of their team, for once, the Blues can sit back and wait on trade deadline day, rather than pursue and feel obligated to bring a new face to St. Louis. There is room for improvement, which is why Armstrong is exploring two star players, but if the price isn’t right, why fix what obviously isn’t broken?