Blues acquire defenseman Michalek from Coyotes - KMOV.com

Blues acquire defenseman Michalek from Coyotes

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By Andrew Allsman By Andrew Allsman

(HockeySTL) -- The Blues have acquired defenseman Zbynek Michalek and a conditional 2015 third-round draft pick from Arizona in exchange for forward prospect Maxim Letunov. The conditions of the draft pick weren't immediately made available.

"We would like to thank Zbynek for all his contributions to the Coyotes over the years," Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said in a statement. "Z is a fierce competitor and a great person and we wish him all the best in the future."

Letunov, 19, who was the Blues' second round draft pick in 2014, is currently one of the top scorers in the USHL with 53 points (22 goals, 31 assists) in 47 games. The center has posted 96 points with the Youngstown Phantoms over the past two seasons.

Since losing All-Star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to an abdominal injury last month, one that is expected to sideline the offensive blue-liner until late March, the Blues had expressed significant interest in acquiring a right-handed defenseman. Michalek fits the mold. However, the 32-year old has not played in a game since Feb. 14 when he suffered an “upper-body” injury, believed to be a concussion.

The Coyotes listed him as day-to-day, but Michalek has yet to progress enough to skate, though he has been taking steps in his recovery.

The injury-prone Michalek has battled several issues during his 10-year NHL career, including a nagging hip injury that forced the defenseman to miss a chunk of games last season. Michalek had undergone surgery in 2012 to correct the issue, but it remained a problem last year.

While doing a telephone interview with Sportsnet, Michalek reacted to the trade.

"I'm sure it's a big risk (the Blues) are taking on, but at the same time, I've been hearing rumors since Christmas time that I might get traded," Michalek said. "It's not really a big surprise to me. It is what it is. Like I said for me, the most important thing is to get healthy. That's what I have to focus on."

Despite missing the last six games with the upper-body injury, Michalek is still 12th in the NHL in blocked shots (130) this season. He finished with 165 shot blocks a year ago.

Michalek has played in 53 of the Coyotes’ 63 games this season. The defenseman has averaged over 21 minutes of ice time per game and has tallied two goals, six assists. Though Michalek had a minus-six rating with Arizona, he is widely seen as a responsible defender who has a lot of poise in the defensive end.

Defensive responsibility has been an issue with the Blues of late, despite the club grabbing five of six possible points on a recent three-game road trip. Due to injury, Michalek won’t be able to step in and help the Blues right away, but could be valuable down the road.

The Blues are currently in St. Louis and are expected to hold a practice Wednesday. It’s unlikely Michalek will accompany them on the ice, though he is soon expected to start skating more consistently on his own.

"It's hard to say," Michalek said. "With these things, you never know. I don't want to say something or promise something and not being able to play. I'm hopeful that I'm going to be able to play soon."

With Michalek now on roster, the Blues have eight healthy defensemen and are one player over the 23-man limit. However, NHL rosters expand and become without limitation at 2 p.m. (St. Louis time).

Michalek is signed to a five-year, $20 million contract through this season. The deal holds a $4 million average annual value and cap hit and also includes a limited no-trade clause. According to ESPN, the Coyotes retained 50-percent of Michalek's salary as part of the conditions of the deal.

The defenseman is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Check back for an updated story at KMOV.com and on the HockeySTL app later.

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